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New flu strain presents great risk for the elderly

From having all of their staff trained on proper hand washing, to the housekeeping crews constantly wiping down and cleaning all community surfaces – fighting the flu is a year round battle at Country Oaks Care Center in Santa Maria.

“We’ve never had a severe outbreak here so basically we’re doing the best that we can, we’re doing a pretty good job of keeping it down – we don’t have any residents who have had the flu this year knock on wood,” says Center Administrator, John Henning.

And Henning is right to be grateful, this year’s flu is extremely hazardous to the elderly community due to their weakened immune system.

“The strain of influenza called H3N2 is typically more severe than other strains; because that’s the circulating strain this year, we are seeing some more severe influenza cases than we’ve seen in prior years,” explains Dr. Charity A. Dean from the Santa Barbara County Public Health Department.

The care center has all of their residents get the flu shot every year, which makes 89 year old Alvin Johnson feel at ease.

“I look forward to it each year; I take it and get it over with,” says Johnson.

Doctors say that it’s really important health care workers get vaccinated as well because they can spread the virus to their patients.

Henning says he doesn’t like having any of his employees come to work if they’re feeling sick, telling us: “Even though it make cause a hardship on their coworkers, they understand that if someone is sick and coughing or something like that they’re spreading the germs around.”

Doctors say the flu virus is contagious for 24 hours before people even show symptoms, which they argue makes a stronger case for getting vaccinated.

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