The San Luis Obispo County Public Health Department says two residents at the Arroyo Grande Care Center have died from flu-related complications and dozens of other residents at the elderly living facility have been made sick from a flu outbreak that began over Christmas weekend.
Angela Hopkins, Vice President of Operations for Compass Health, Inc. which operates the Arroyo Grande Care Center, has issued the following statement about the outbreak:
“Let me assure you we are taking every measure possible in full cooperation of our local health department, in this unfortunate outbreak situation. In the case of Arroyo Grande Care Center, prior to this incident of flu,
96% of staff and residents of the care center had elected and received their flu vaccine, including the two residents who passed away from their complications. Unfortunately both of these individuals had multiple other serious medical co-morbidities, like most of the residents we care for, and the flu is dangerous in and of itself in such fragile populations as our very young and frail elderly. Since the outbreak has occurred, we have provided antiviral treatment to all of our residents, remained closed to new admissions, restricted visitation, group activities and communal dining until we and the health department officials deem it safe to return to normal operations. It is imperative that the public understands the importance of the fragility of special populations and respect the visitation restrictions hospitals, nursing homes, assured living communities and other such settings request during the flu season. The health and safety of our residents remains our first priority at Compass Health, and we appreciate the public’s support.”
“When you’re in a fragile state of life as one can get when you’re getting old, influenza is an unwelcome companion”, says James Beebe who runs the laboratory at the San Luis Obispo County Public Health Department, “very often it just takes one individual who is shedding the virus to get into an environment like that, an institutional environment, where it rapidly spreads.”
Beebe defends the flu-shot as the best defense against a spreading public health threat especially for people with compromised immune systems like the elderly.
“We’re seeing one type predominate, Influenza A-H3N2, and that basically was in the vaccine formulation”, Beebe says, “it has in a very short time gone from what we refer to as sporadic cases throughout the state to widespread, pretty quickly.”
“Its still the best and yes there are reports that show that its not as effective as we’d like it to be, but its still the best”, Beebe says, “because like people of my age, I must, my immune system is not as good as it used to be, I have to get the concentrated formulation of the vaccine and I get it every year and I suspect that if I get infected with influenza I think I’ll have a less difficult time if I didn’t.”