An outbreak of COVID-19 at Lions Gate Hospital has been declared officially over.
The outbreak, which has hit wards on both the sixth and seventh floors of the North Vancouver hospital, was declared over on Friday, May 22, a month after the virus was first detected in patients and staff.
That means there is no longer considered to be a heightened public health risk associated with those wards.
But the outbreak also came at a cost.
Altogether, 16 patients contracted the virus while hospitalized for unrelated medical conditions. Of those, nine people died, said Dr. Mark Lysyshyn, chief medical officer for Coastal Garibaldi region of Vancouver Coastal Health.
Those who died were generally elderly with underlying health problems, but after they contracted the virus “their symptoms changed and they deteriorated,” said Lysyshyn. “We do think COVID-19 played a role in most of the deaths.”
In addition to the patients, 12 hospital staff contracted the virus while at work. The outbreak was also traced to seven other cases of the virus outside of the hospital, in people who had contact with either patients or staff.
Lysyshyn said when COVID-19 outbreaks occur in hospital, it can be very difficult to detect at first because patients already have multiple medical conditions and are often on multiple medications. “It can be very difficult to notice if somebody develops a new runny nose that is or isn’t part of their current clinical picture,” he said.
That is likely what happened in this outbreak, he said.
Many of the patients who subsequently contracted the virus in Lions Gate had already tested negative for COVID-19 multiple times throughout their hospitalization prior to that, said Lysyshyn, further complicating the picture.
Since the outbreak started, patients were moved from the affected wards – usually to the COVID-19 ward – and the areas were deep cleaned.
Vancouver Coastal Health also traced a total of 230 patient contacts who may have been exposed to the virus. Of those, 154 are now considered in the clear, while the rest are being watched in case they develop symptoms.
Although Lions Gate Hospital is one of four designated COVID-19 sites in the Vancouver Coastal Health Region (others are St. Paul’s Hospital, Vancouver General Hospital and Richmond Hospital), the recent outbreaks on the sixth and seventh floors are not thought to be linked to the COVID-19 ward on the hospital’s second floor, said Lysyshyn.
Health officials are also in the process of examining the genome of the virus that appeared on the sixth and seventh floors to see if those cases were likely related or not.