Flu outbreak at veterans home

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An outbreak of influenza at the state veterans' home in Rocky Hill has been reported. It has hospitalized 18 on Monday, and six were diagnosed with a special strain of flu.

State Veterans' Affairs Commissioner Linda Schwartz told The Associated Press that the veterans were taken to Hartford Hospital after a number began complaining of flu-like symptoms. The 18 men live at the Connecticut State Veterans Home in either the Sgt. John L. Levitow Veteran's Health Center or a residential facility.

The six diagnosed veterans came from the health care facility and Schwartz said they were in stable condition. She was uncertain how long they will remain under observation at the hospital, saying it will depend on how they respond to treatment. Besides the 18 who were transported to the hospital, Schwartz said an additional 22 veterans who live in the barracks-like residential facility have complained of symptoms. They have been partially isolated from the rest of the population and will not be allowed to eat with the other veterans to prevent further spreading of the virus. She said her agency has been advised that the flu could last five to seven days.

“We haven't heard anything terrible,” she said of their current condition. “It's the respiratory kind. Many of our veterans are frail and elderly, so it's very risky.”

Schwartz added that all the victims were previously vaccinated against influenza, but not this strain. She said state public health officials believe it is a case of delayed seasonal influenza, given how late in the season it has occurred. Schwartz said her agency contacted the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for advice on handling the outbreak.

All the veterans by Monday were given doses of Tamiflu, a drug used to treat flu symptoms, as a precautionary measure. Schwartz said they will have to take two doses every day for two weeks. To prevent the flu from spreading, many group and communal activities have been canceled and visits are being limited. The Rocky Hill campus currently has about 475 veterans. Schwartz said there are about 300 staff but not all are engaged in patient care. She said some staff members have called out sick with flu-like symptoms.

“We were lucky that we identified it,” said Schwartz, who has been the commissioner for nine years. “We're doing everything we can, and our biggest concern is the people in the health care facility who already have respiratory problems. This is not going to be helpful.” The average age of the veterans at the health care facility is 80 to 85.

Health Minister John Hill says the flu is a serious illness and accounts for about 20,000 hospital admissions and up to 2000 deaths in Australia each year. The minister lined up with doctors and nurses at the Royal Adelaide Hospital on Monday to get his flu shot and has urged health workers and others at risk of the virus to do the same. “Every day, doctors and nurses are in close contact with patients for whom catching the flu could have very serious consequences,” Mr Hill said.

“That's why its really important for health workers to get vaccinated and give themselves the best protection possible against the virus. People who are particularly at risk from complications associated with influenza should also make sure they get vaccinated. This includes pregnant women, people over 65 years of age, Aboriginal people and anyone with a chronic medical condition, such as heart disease, lung disease and diabetes,” he added. The seasonal influenza vaccine is available free in South Australia for all people in high risk categories.

Dr. Ananya Mandal

Written by

Dr. Ananya Mandal

Dr. Ananya Mandal is a doctor by profession, lecturer by vocation and a medical writer by passion. She specialized in Clinical Pharmacology after her bachelor's (MBBS). For her, health communication is not just writing complicated reviews for professionals but making medical knowledge understandable and available to the general public as well.

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