Objectives: To characterize illness and identify the etiology for two nursing home outbreaks of respiratory illness.
Design: Multisite outbreak investigations; cohort.
Setting: Two nursing homes in Pennsylvania.
Participants: Facility A residents (n = 170), Facility B residents (n = 124), and employees (n = 91).
Measurements: Medical records for Facility A and B residents were reviewed, and employees from Facility B self-administered a questionnaire to identify risk factors for illness. Serological, oropharyngeal, and nasopharyngeal specimens were collected for both outbreaks, and testing for respiratory pathogens was performed.
Results: In Facility A, 40 (24%) of 170 residents were identified with respiratory illness; 13 (33%) case-patients had radiographically confirmed pneumonia, 15 (38%) were taken to a hospital, and two (5%) died. Of 10 specimens collected from symptomatic Facility A case-patients, four (40%) tested positive using reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction for rhinovirus. In Facility B, 77 (62%) of 124 residents had respiratory illness, and 40 (52%) had radiographically confirmed pneumonia; 12 (16%) case-patients were hospitalized, and five (6%) died. Of 19 respiratory specimens collected from symptomatic Facility B case-patients, six (32%) were positive for rhinovirus; one was from an employee. Five (50%) of 10 rhinovirus-positive cases in both outbreaks had clinical and radiographic evidence of pneumonia.
Conclusion: These investigations suggest that rhinoviruses may be an underrecognized cause of respiratory outbreaks in nursing homes, capable of causing pneumonia and perhaps death.