’Flu kills nursing home residents in Australia
Six people were reported to have died during an influenza outbreak at a nursing home in the Australian state of Tasmania.
The state’s public health department confirmed the deaths at the beginning of September and said there had been flu outbreaks in 21 nursing homes across the state nine still being monitored.
Those who died were all residents at the 37-bed Strathdevon aged care facility in Latrobe, run by Uniting Agewell, an organisation of the Australian United Church. The deaths came after it was confirmed seven elderly residents at St John’s Retirement Village in Wangaratta, in Victoria, died during an influenza outbreak. Uniting Agewell issued a statement saying there had been “an influenza A outbreak at its Strathdevon aged care facility . . . from August 9 to 30, with the outbreak cleared on 30 August 2017″. It also confirmed the six deaths.
“All precautions to prevent an outbreak ahead of the flu season were taken, with 95% of Strathdevon’s 37 residents receiving a flu vaccination,” said the statement.
“All staff were offered the free vaccine, with a large number of them being immunised. Unfortunately, despite these precautions, 31 residents were affected during the outbreak period.
“All appropriate care was provided, with nine residents admitted to hospital for further treatment. Staff did everything possible to contain and minimise the outbreak and followed all protocols, working closely with Public Health Tasmania and managing according to state Department of Heath infection control guidelines.”
Reduced vaccine uptake
Chief executive of Tasmania’s Council on Ageing Sue Leitch said it was worrying that flu vaccination rates among adults were decreasing.
“If we have less people vaccinated in the community then flus are more likely to spread more rapidly,” she said, adding it was especially important that those working with older people were vaccinated.
“I think they certainly should be encouraged very firmly by organisations that either employ them or have them as volunteers,” she said.
“You can get be vaccinated by a nurse, you can be vaccinated by a doctor, you can be vaccinated at your local pharmacy, it’s not as if it’s something that’s difficult to achieve these days.”
Robert Booy from the University of Sydney has researched the handling of flu outbreaks by Australian aged care facilities. He told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation’s AM program he believed nursing and retirement homes could do more to prevent and control outbreaks of the virus.
“Australian nursing homes are under pressure,” he said.
“They have limited numbers of registered nurses on call in any one shift, sometime it’s only one and that makes it very hard for a registered nurse to go around and recognise the sometimes subtle symptoms of flu.”
Professor Booy said declining rates of vaccination might be due to a relatively low rate of success.
“People worry that the vaccine doesn’t work perfectly and they’re right,” he said.
“It’s maybe 40 or 50 or 60% effective but it’s better than anything else we’ve got.”