‘The flu’ season bears down on seniors

New outbreak in city prompts nursing home restrictions

While the spotlight has been on the novel coronavirus outbreak that has spread rapidly worldwide from China, health risks from the more common seasonal influenza strains continue to be of special concern for local and national health officials.

On Feb. 5, increases in serious illness from “the flu” prompted Hollister’s Mabie Skilled Nursing Facility and Hazel Hawkins Memorial Hospital to temporarily restrict visitors to all skilled nursing residents in the hospital’s two facilities, following recommendations from the San Benito County Public Health Department.

Six confirmed Influenza-A cases among the skilled nursing residents in a week prompted the new restrictions.

“It is of utmost importance to us to protect this vulnerable population from additional exposure to the flu,” said Amy Bannister, a registered nurse who is the hospital’s infection control coordinator, in a statement.  “We understand that this is difficult and frustrating for residents and family members, but it is temporary. Our hope is to return to normal operations as soon as possible.”

As of Feb. 11, the restrictions were still in place.

Influenza continues to infect thousands, and children as well as senior citizens are especially vulnerable.

Nearly every state reported continued high influenza activity, with 14 more children deaths from influenza reported in the U.S. last week, according to the the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. So far this flu season, 68 children have died, according to CDC estimates released Feb. 7.

Approximately 10,000 people have died in the U.S. and 180,000 people have been hospitalized during the 2019-2020 flu season, according to preliminary estimates from the CDC.

Health officials said people can help reduce the risk of flu by:

  • Getting a flu vaccine; vaccination remains the best protection
  • Practicing basic hand hygiene, including hand sanitizing and hand washing
  • Sanitizing and disinfecting frequently touched surfaces on a regular basis
  • Staying home if the following symptoms are present: fever (temperature greater than 100 degrees), chills, cough, sore throat, muscle aches, and fatigue

Influenza symptoms come on quickly in the form of fever, dry cough, sore throat, headache, extreme tiredness, stuffed-up nose, and body aches. These symptoms can be severe.

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