Influenza season has been a particularly hard one this year, and with spikes in the number of positive cases of influenza in our area for the last two weeks, Gardenside and Cedarwood remain closed to visitors.
“We know it is very difficult for family to be away from their loved ones for an extended period of time, but our closure has been to protect the often fragile health of our residents,” said Deb Sutton RN, administrator of JCH&L Gardenside. “Many long-term care facilities nationwide have experienced widespread influenza and deaths. We are fortunate that only two of our residents have had respiratory infections, and none have been diagnosed with influenza.”
Amber Brunow, infection preventionist at Jefferson Community Health & Life, said the number of positive cases in our community, as well as the nationwide status of influenza diagnoses are reviewed weekly. Influenza is considered widespread if we have three or more positive cases in our community. Near the end of February, we were down to three positive diagnoses of influenza in our community each week. But there was a spike in the first two weeks of March, with 7 positive tests the week of March 5 and 9 the week of March 19.
“We can see that influenza season isn’t over, and it is so important that we not cut corners when it comes to the safety our residents,” Brunow said.
She said Centers for Disease Control data show that our surrounding states are finally declining in influenza activity, which means our time of the incidence of influenza declining should be coming soon.
“We will remain closed to visitors until our physicians and infection prevention team feel the incidence of influenza in our communities has been reduced to a point that we are not putting our residents at risk,” Brunow said.
How can the community help? If you know you have been exposed to influenza, try to avoid
close contact with people, especially people who may have compromised immune systems (the very young, those over 65, those with chronic illnesses, those who are on immune-compromising treatments or medications, etc.) If you are feeling ill or have a fever, stay home. If you or a family member are diagnosed with influenza, it would be a courtesy to others you have been in close contact with to let them know you were diagnosed, so they know they were exposed. The CDC recommends every day preventative actions including covering coughs and sneezes, frequent handwashing, staying away from crowds, and staying home if you are ill. If you have not had an influenza vaccination, talk to your doctor.
It’s not too late to be vaccinated. It takes about two weeks after vaccination for antibodies to develop in the body to protect against influenza.
Sutton thanked everyone for their patience and understanding.
“All of our efforts are to keep your loved ones from getting influenza, which could have serious consequences including hospitalization and death for our nursing home residents. Thank you for your cooperation and understanding as we take precautionary measures to keep our residents healthy,” Sutton said.
Anyone interested in more information on influenza or the nationwide statistics can go to www.cdc.gov/flu