2 more hospitalized as Va. retirement community works to contain fatal outbreak

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Two more people have been hospitalized in the outbreak of a fatal respiratory ailment in a Springfield, Virginia, retirement community.

As of Friday afternoon, 20 residents of the Greenspring Retirement Community had been transferred to hospitals for care, 55 were sick and two had died. The illness ranges from upper respiratory infection and a cough, to pneumonia.

The two patients who died were older and had complex medical problems. The outbreak is in a building that houses 263 residents, and includes assisted living and skilled nursing care.

“The No. 1 most important thing is making sure that good infection control is going to prevent disease as much as possible,” said Dr. Benjamin Schwartz, director of epidemiology and population health at the Fairfax County Health Department.

After ensuring residents and staff stay safe, Schwartz said the second priority is to identify the infection’s cause.

Greenspring retirement community houses 263 residents, and includes assisted living and skilled nursing care. (WTOP/Abigail Constantino)

“We are continuing to collect and test specimens,” Shwartz said, while noting that the elderly sometimes don’t test positive for pathogens responsible for respiratory ailments that can lead to pneumonia.

Tests done thus far all have been negative. Samples also are being shared with the Virginia Department of Health and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Respiratory disease outbreaks are common in long-term care facilities, Shwartz said, but typically not in summer. He also noted, however, that there are some viruses that circulate in summer, or throughout the year.

Efforts to contain the ailment include the facility not accepting new admissions, restricting visitation, cancelling group activities and not allowing sick residents to leave their rooms.

The facility also is increasing cleaning and hand-washing.

A four-year resident of Greenspring told WTOP that protocols, including the suspension of group gatherings, are not new and have occurred when people have winter ailments.

He feels comfortable with how the facility is handling the situation. “They have done a marvelous job over the years that I’ve been here (when) there’s an outbreak of any sort of problem that’s communicative,” said the resident, who preferred not to be identified.

“I might not like not doing the things I want to do, but I know it’s the best thing for me, and for all those who are here and who want to remain in good health,” he added.

Shwartz said Greenspring has been very proactive and collaborative with the health department that visited the facility for a second time on Friday.

“We’re very pleased with the response at the facility,” Shwartz said.

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Kristi King

Kristi King is a veteran reporter who has been working in the WTOP newsroom since 1990. She covers everything from breaking news to consumer concerns and the latest medical developments.

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