Massachusetts General questioned on infectious disease reporting delay

Officials at Massachusetts General Hospital have come under fire for a four-day delay in letting area health authorities know that a gastrointestinal illness was hitting a broad swath of patients and staff on one of its floors. It appears that the hospital may have violated rules calling for prompt reporting when infectious disease clusters are suspected.

Last weekend, the hospital became aware that patients and staff were being stricken with a syndrome including vomiting, diarrhea and nausea, and stopped assigning new patients to the affected ward. Over the next few days, nine patients and 18 staff members were affected.

The Boston Public Health Commission didn't learn about the outbreak until the middle of this week, despite regulations requiring Mass General and other facilities to report disease outbreaks within a maximum of 24 hours. Mass General officials said that the delay took place because the hospital was gathering information it felt the health agency needed, and that in the meantime, it moved quickly to contain the illness.

However, the city's head of communicable disease control has said that the hospital "dropped the ball" and has begun an investigation of the matter.

To learn more about Mass General's situation:
- read this article in The Boston Globe

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