LARGO — Results were inconclusive from tests performed by the Pinellas County Health Department at a Largo assisted-living facility, where nine people thought to have flu-like symptoms were evacuated Sunday.
"More than likely it could have been a virus,'' said Jeannine Mallory, spokeswoman for the health department.
Mallory said only two of the people transported from Grand Villa to local hospitals were actually sick. All have returned to the facility.
Monique Spruill, the facility's administrator, was relieved at the Health Department's test results, but was clearly irritated by the media attention.
"It was embarrassing, it was ridiculous," she said. "It was very ugly."
Spruill also questioned the decision by Largo Fire Rescue to remove so many residents from the home when they weren't ill.
"We are waiting for EMS to tell us how they determined (that) the other seven residents had to go to the ER,'' she said.
Rescue workers were called to the facility at 750 Starkey Road on Sunday morning by employees who said they needed help for a resident who was complaining of illness.
The rescuers set up a triage area in the care center and assessed the elderly who have Alzheimer's disease and live in the memory unit.
Eight residents and one staff member were taken to area hospitals.
The staff member was immediately discharged; the others stayed overnight for observation.
Shelby Willis, chief of Largo Fire Rescue's medical services division, said the staff at Grand Villa requested that the residents be taken to the hospital for treatment and evaluation, "and that's exactly what we did.''
She said if a patient has Alzheimer's and is not alert, rescuers are required to follow the wishes of the individual's health care provider.
Ernie Bach, who lives in the Forestbrook community next to Grand Villa, said he wished the tests had revealed more.
Bach, chairman of the Forestbrook Advisory Council, rushed to the assisted-living facility Sunday when he saw a hazmat vehicle and other emergency trucks at the scene.
He said Forestbrook residents feared there was an outbreak of a serious illness and wondered whether it could be Legionnaires' disease.
He said at least one resident packed up and fled to the beach for the day, then called him hours later to find out if it was safe to return.
"The way things are carried around in this world today," Bach said, "illness travels quickly."
Eileen Schulte can be reached at email@example.com or (727) 445-4153.