Authorities reviewing the deaths of six elderly residents of a northern Nevada convalescent home say all died the same day of natural causes although it's not clear whether any were flu victims.
State Epidemiologist Randall Todd said Friday that the Nevada Health Division is reviewing six deaths Tuesday at the Evergreen at Mountain View Care Center in Carson City. Todd is trying to confirm the cause of the deaths, and the agency's Bureau of Licensure and Certification will determine whether the facility was operating properly.
Carson City Sheriff Ken Furlong said it appears most of the deaths are flu-related and "there is no suspicion of foul play whatever. It's just the cluster of deaths we're concerned with."
"This doesn't bring a law enforcement response," Furlong said. "It's for health officials to pursue."
Doug McCoy, Evergreen's regional operations manager, said autopsy results will determine the cause of the deaths, but the center's own study of residents' health records turned up no confirmed cases of influenza.
McCoy also said Evergreen is reviewing its efforts to prevent illnesses at the center, which he said had offered vaccinations to all its nearly 120 residents.
The total of influenza-like illnesses in Nevada jumped from about 3,300 late last week to more than 3,500 this week. Todd said 50 cases of influenza have been confirmed through cultures. Cases confirmed through rapid lab tests jumped to 200 this week, up from 80 confirmed late last week.
About 10 percent of patients visiting doctors this week complained of influenzalike symptoms, Todd said, adding that's up from the 6 percent reported during the peak of flu season last year.
Health officials have not determined whether Nevada has reached the peak of flu season this year. Todd said most suspected cases go unreported unless the affected patient is treated at a hospital or by a doctor who reports it to the state.
Todd said Nevada averages about 350 flu-related deaths a year. Most of those deaths occur during a flu season that extends from late November and early December to March or April.
Nevada is one of 24 states hit hard by this year's early flu outbreak that has spread to all 50 states.