Investigators exclusive: 4 dead, dozens sick from rhinovirus at Westchester veterans home

Friday, August 26, 2016
Exclusive: Rhinovirus at vet home
Jim Hoffer has an exclusive report on a rhinovirus outbreak at a Westchester veterans home.

MONTROSE, New York (WABC) -- Dozens of people at a local home for veterans have come down with the rhinovirus this month, and four have died at the Westchester County facility.

On the last three weeks, a team of infectious control experts from the state Department of Health have been on the scene at the New York State Veterans Home in Montrose, trying to bring the outbreak of the respiratory infection under control.

The Eyewitness News Investigators have learned that nearly one in four of all patients at the 221-bed facility have come down with the fast spreading illness, which is a bad strain of the common cold.

Health officials say that since August 2, there have been 58 cases, four of which resulted in death. Fifteen are still recovering, while 39 have fully recovered.

"This is the first step state health must take to establish whether or not this does represent an outbreak," said Dr. Denis Nash, of the CUNY School of Public Health. "It does, on the face of it, seem like an unusual number of cases and deaths."

Dr. Nash, an infectious disease specialist, said the state must immediately assess the facilities standards and practices for infection prevention.

"This is something that state health department is looking into very carefully," he said. "As they are gathering all this information, marking any changes right away, as they need to, in order to stop any ongoing outbreak and also prevent future ones. "

A spokesman for the state Department of Health says they've been working closely with the Veteran's Home onsite to ensure that infection prevention and control measures are implemented to diminish the risk for infections.

"If so many are affected by the same infectious disease, it does point to infection control issues," Dr. Nash said. "And that's something the state will want to be looking at right away."

The Department of Health says there have been no new cases in days, and that they continue to work closely with the Montrose staff on cleaning the facility and infection control.

Rhinoviruses are the most common cause of the common cold. CLICK HERE for more information from the CDC.