HIQA and HPSC publish updated analysis of SARS-CoV-2 outbreaks in nursing homes

The Health Information and Quality Authority (HIQA) and the Health Protection Surveillance Centre (HPSC) today published an update to their analysis of factors associated with outbreaks of SARS-CoV-2 in nursing homes, to include the third wave of COVID-19 in Ireland. This analysis was undertaken following a request from the COVID-19 Nursing Homes Expert Panel.

The updated analysis investigated factors associated with outbreaks of SARS-CoV-2 in HIQA-registered nursing homes. Due to challenges posed by the cyber-attack on the HSE information systems, the analysis was limited to data up to 12 May 2021. The updated analysis therefore covers the first, second, and the majority of the third wave of COVID-19 in Ireland.

Dr Conor Teljeur, HIQA’s Chief Scientist, said:

“In our update, we found that many of the factors associated with outbreaks in the third wave remained the same as those for the first and second waves. The likelihood of outbreaks in nursing homes was still associated with higher community incidence of COVID-19, the number of beds in a nursing home, and being in close proximity to other nursing homes.”

Dr Teljeur continued:

“However, there were some differences, as each wave was influenced by different public health measures, COVID-19 variants and the distribution of infections in terms of demographics and geography. There were more outbreaks in the third wave than during the first two waves combined, but fewer nursing homes had more than one outbreak. The impact of vaccination roll-out was pronounced and positive; once vaccination was rolled out, homes were less likely to have an outbreak and if an outbreak occurred, it was smaller.”

The overall applicability of these findings to current and future time periods is limited. Improved information on the characteristics of individual nursing homes would benefit future analyses, specifically allowing comparisons between different nursing home types and facilitating international comparisons.

Dr Lois O’Connor, Specialist in Public Health Medicine at HPSC, said:

“It is encouraging to see the positive impact of the vaccination programme on nursing home outbreaks during wave 3 of the COVID-19 pandemic. This highlights the value of a comprehensive vaccination programme to augment non-pharmaceutical measures in limiting the impact of COVID-19 on nursing homes.”

You can find the report on our website, www.hiqa.ie.

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