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Local nursing homes sick of flu

By Staff | Mar 17, 2008

Visitors are always welcome, but last week two local nursing homes were encouraging them to stay away.

The reason: influenza.

A red sign posted at entrance doors at St. Luke’s Lutheran Care Center in Blue Earth warned that some residents at the facility were experiencing a respiratory virus.

Administrator Gene Nelson says two residents at the nursing home and one in the independent housing building had been diagnosed with the flu.

“Our biggest fear is people from the community bringing it in from the outside,” says Nelson.

Precautions were being taken, he says, to prevent an outbreak.

Once the signs were posted Monday afternoon family members of residents were notified.

“We called them to get their permission so we could give an anti-viral tablet,” says Nelson.

It’s nothing unusual for a long-term care facility to be stricken with cases of the flu. Residents are given flu shots in the fall, Nelson says, but that doesn’t mean that one will not get sick.

Parker Oaks in Winnebago was restricting people from visiting the facility because of what they termed an “Influenza A outbreak.”

Also, the Sunday Family Dining at Dikker’s Hall open to the public was canceled

Like St. Luke’s, signs at the nursing home were posted late Monday afternoon.

“We’re trying to head it off before it gets any worse. To protect the residents from people who may bring it in and others from catching it from the resident,” says Linda Anderson, director of nursing at Parker Oaks.

In all, eight residents were given a nasal culture when they developed symptoms of a high temperature, scratchy throat and coughing. Anderson says only three tests came back positive.

Because the virus passes through the air and enters your body through one’s nose or mouth, Anderson says workers are wearing face masks.

“This type of flu is not one covered by shots given in the fall. People think because they get the shot they’ll be OK. That’s not true,” Anderson adds.

In addition, residents are being served meals in their rooms and using disposable dining ware.

So far, only residents in the nursing home portion have experienced flu-like symptoms. No cases have been reported in the assisted-living building.

It will probably be sometime this week, she says, that the signs will come down.

LaDonna Dutton, a registered nurse at United Hospital District-Clinics, says they have seen a few patients with an upper respiratory infection.

“We are seeing more than the usual this time of year. A few have tested positive for influenza, many have not. We’re not talking a high number here,” says Dutton.