HIQA and HPSC outline factors associated with outbreaks of SARS-CoV-2 in Irish nursing homes

Date of publication:

The Health Information and Quality Authority (HIQA) and the Health Protection Surveillance Centre (HPSC) today published a joint analysis of factors associated with outbreaks of SARS-CoV-2 in nursing homes in Ireland. This analysis, was completed following a recommendation by the COVID-19 Nursing Homes Expert Panel.

The analysis investigated factors associated with outbreaks of SARS-CoV-2 (the virus that causes COVID-19) in HIQA-registered nursing homes and covered the period prior to the rollout of the COVID-19 vaccination programme.

Dr Conor Teljeur, HIQA’s Chief Scientist, said: “Older people, particularly those who are frail or medically compromised, are at a higher risk of poor outcomes from COVID-19. Those living in nursing homes have been severely impacted, with a disproportionate number of deaths during the early stages of the pandemic. Given their vulnerability to COVID-19, there has been an emphasis on safeguarding this population.”

The probability of an outbreak occurring in a nursing home increased with rising community incidence around the home, the number of beds within the home and the presence of other nursing homes in close proximity. In terms of the size of the outbreak, smaller outbreaks were associated with nursing homes having previously experienced an outbreak of SARS-CoV-2. The proportion of residents in a nursing home affected by an outbreak decreased with an increasing number of beds.

Dr Teljeur, continued: “We have outlined factors that were associated with outbreaks of SARS-CoV-2 in nursing homes during the first and second waves of the pandemic in Ireland. Many of these factors we identified are outside the control of the nursing homes. Also, when comparing publicly and privately operated nursing homes, we noted no significant differences. However, the analysis was limited due to the lack of reliable and consistent data across nursing homes for a number of potentially important factors.”

Dr John Cuddihy, Interim Director of HPSC, highlighted: "Collecting data on potential risk factors associated with SARS-CoV-2 outbreaks in nursing homes should be considered, although the resources required to collect and maintain the data compared with its usefulness to improve care and inform future decision-making must be examined.”

This report can be found from link at the top of the page.

Further information:
Marty Whelan, Head of Communications & Stakeholder Engagement
01 814 7480/085 805 5202, mwhelan@hiqa.ie

Notes to Editor:

  • HIQA and the HPSC have today published a report outlining an analysis of factors associated with outbreaks of SARS-CoV-2 in nursing homes in Ireland, following a recommendation made by the COVID-19 Nursing Homes Expert Panel report published in August 2020. The analysis included data up to 21 November 2020 (that is, the first and second waves of the pandemic).
  • The collaborative analysis drew on a number of data sources contributing information on community-level and facility-level factors. These included descriptive information on the 572 HIQA-registered nursing homes in Ireland at the time the analysis was undertaken (sourced from HIQA), and details of community incidence and outbreak events in nursing homes (sourced from the HPSC).
  • The analysis looked at the relative importance of a number of factors to the likelihood of an outbreak occurring, and to the extent of an outbreak once it occurs; that is, the number of residents infected.
  • The results of the analysis should be considered to be exploratory in nature due to the lack of availability of relevant data for establishing causal relationships.
  • Data were up to 21 November 2020, covering the first and second waves of the pandemic in Ireland. The applicability of these results to subsequent time periods is unclear given the changing dynamic of the pandemic, emergence of new variants of concern and the rollout of a comprehensive vaccination programme.