Local nursing homes prep for flu outbreak

Published 12:00 am Saturday, December 27, 2003

Amidst the holiday decorations in the Crown Health Care Nursing Facility lobby, visitors will find a sign urging caution.

Crowne officials want people who have flu or flu like symptoms to avoid the nursing home to prevent spreading the virus to its residents.

According to Sheridan Hanks, RN for Quality Assurance/ Infection Control said none of the nursing home’s residents has had the flu, and she hopes to keep it that way.

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&uot;We offered all our residents the flu vaccine and encouraged them to receive the vaccine,&uot; she said.

&uot;We posted a notification at the front entrance asking family and friends not to visit if they have respiratory infections or flu-like symptoms.&uot;

None of the 134 residents in the nursing home has been hit with the flu, and administrator Mary Stroud wants it to stay that way, especially during the holidays.

According to the Center for Disease Control in Atlanta, this is a critical time for homes for the elderly and infirmed because of the number of people who visit the facilities.

However, the CDC states if right precautions are taken, there should be no contamination of residents.

Like many nursing homes across the country, Crown Health has taken precautions to protect the elderly from the flu, including stepping up hand washing and overall sanitation, Hanks said.

&uot;We have also taken steps to train staff not to come to work if they have signs of the flu,&uot; she said. &uot;First line of defense is hand washing.

We encourage our staff and residents to wash their hands constantly.&uot;

Older people, who generally have weakening immune systems, are at high-risk for developing severe flu complications. And most flu deaths occur among the elderly.

&uot;Not spreading the germs is what it’s about,&uot; Hanks said. &uot;This is not new for us, we take these precautions every year.

This is an annual thing for us.&uot;

Unlike some nursing homes, Crown Health did not have to cancel Christmas events such as visiting church choirs and family events.

During the holidays, most nursing homes see an increase in visitors that is very important to residents.

&uot;Basically, if anyone should the signs and symptoms of the flu or respiratory infection, we contact their physician and try to get them to stay out of the group activities,&uot; she said.

&uot;So far, the Lord has blessed us and we have not had any breakouts as of now.&uot;

The CDC announced on Christmas Eve that flu activity has reached widespread levels- the highest CDC level- in 10 states since last week: Alabama, Alaska, Maine, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, New Jersey, Ohio, South Dakota and Wisconsin.

CDC officials describe this year’s outbreak as a likely epidemic and expressed concern that 42 children likely died from the flu.

Of the five states where the flu is not widespread, Hawaii has seen only localized outbreaks, while regional outbreaks have been reported in Florida, Louisiana, New Hampshire and Oklahoma.

The other 35 states on the widespread list include Arizona, Arkansas, Connecticut, Delaware, Georgia, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Mississippi, New York, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Vermont, Virginia, and Wyoming.