Can Nursing Homes be Liable for Virus Outbreaks?

Posted on behalf of Jeff Pitman on March 31, 2020 in Nursing Home Abuse
Updated on April 25, 2024

sick woman in hospitalViral outbreaks and other medical diseases present a growing concern to everyone, but especially the most vulnerable in our population, such as residents in long term care.

The elderly are often disproportionately impacted by pneumonia, flu and other diseases because of their age and, in many cases, chronic health conditions. If a nursing home facility does not take reasonable steps to contain these viral illnesses and your loved one suffers harm, that facility could be liable.

If someone you care for has suffered harm from a viral outbreak due to negligence, you may benefit from contacting one of our reputable Wisconsin nursing home abuse lawyers from Pitman, Kalkhoff, Sicula & Dentice for legal help. We are prepared to thoroughly investigate the circumstances, prior history and current health practices of the nursing home to determine if you may have a viable claim.

Contributing Factors that Increase the Risk of Viruses Spreading

The community environment of nursing homes increases the odds that viruses will form and spread due to several factors, including:

  • Close living quarters – Nursing homes often have hundreds of patients who live in close quarters with others. When one patient gets sick, others nearby may also get sick. These patients may share medical equipment, food and air that can increase the likelihood of an outbreak. Simply sharing a television remote or eating side-by-side can help spread a highly contagious disease.
  • Shared caregivers and frequent visitors – A steady stream of outside visitors, nurses and support staff can potentially expose residents to viruses.
  • Compromised immune systems – These high-risk factors make viral illnesses like the flu more serious while also increasing the chances they could develop into a dangerous infection, such as pneumonia.

Sometimes it may be difficult to identify the presence of a virus simply by looking for classic symptoms, such as fever or body aches, in the elderly. These residents may have existing medical conditions that mimic a viral disease.  Medication is another factor that may make it harder to diagnose a viral illness. These issues can lead to a delayed or missed diagnosis, making it more likely a highly contagious disease will be spread and harder to treat a patient if the illness has already progressed to a later stage.

When Nursing Home Negligence May Contribute to an Outbreak

Even though nursing home patients may be more susceptible to getting sick, long term care facilities are still responsible for taking reasonable steps to help reduce the spread of infectious diseases, such as:

  • Promptly identifying an illness
  • Implementing reasonable control measures
  • Quarantining sick patients
  • Having focused staff to treat sick patients and others to care for healthy residents
  • Providing medication to patients to prevent the spread of the illness
  • Reporting outbreaks to the local health department
  • Requiring staff members to wear gloves and a gown that they frequently change after coming into contact with ill patients
  • Requiring staff members to be current with all immunizations
  • Training and requiring staff members to follow proper hand washing and hygiene procedures
  • Updating staff before transferring an infected resident

Negligent nursing homes may encourage the spread of viruses by such actions and behaviors as:

  • Failure to isolate infected residents
  • Improper sterilization and disinfection practices
  • Lack of cleaning procedures
  • Lack of proper hand-washing procedures
  • Excessive use of antibiotics
  • Having the same staff to work with ill and healthy patients

Nursing home residents and their families may be eligible for compensation if the nursing home’s negligence caused or contributed to the virus outbreak.

Get Help from a Nursing Home Abuse and Neglect Lawyer

If you suspect that your loved one’s illness during a virus outbreak could have been contained but for nursing home negligence, contact our experienced legal team at PKSD to learn whether you may have a claim for compensation. Our lawyers are knowledgeable about the laws, regulations and acceptable standards that nursing homes must follow.

We provide a free, no-obligation consultation to discuss your legal rights and options. There are no upfront fees and no risk to you, so contact us today to get started.

Our firm can take your call 24/7: 414-333-3333

Back to top