The 2017-2018 influenza season ended with evidence of 117 Indiana long-term care systems struggling with influenza outbreaks and hundreds of preventable flu-related illnesses for its residents, most of whom were being treated in nursing home settings. It was one of the deadliest years for this population. 248 individuals who fit the 65 years and older profile of high risk died from deadly flu complications such as bronchitis, pneumonia, and sepsis.
The spread of influenza in nursing homes most easily occurs between patients, staff, and visitors. Flu is spread from close contact with persons who are sick with flu or from touching surfaces or objects that have flu virus on them. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) suggest that administrators be prepared to manage their facility during the flu season by:
In addition, an influenza vaccination should be provided routinely to all residents and health care workers of long-term care facilities before the flu season picks up, generally in the months of November thru March. Access to good respiratory hygiene is also important to prevent the spread of flu and flu-related infections.
Flu is different from a cold and usually comes on strong and suddenly. This time of year especially, staff should be watching residents for the common symptoms which can include a fever of 100 degrees, muscle aches, headaches, fatigue, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, and cough. Symptoms usually start about 1-4 days after being exposed and can last 2-7 days. People with the flu can be contagious for up to seven days after symptoms first appear. A health care professional may be able to diagnose a flu infection by looking for these symptoms. Sometimes a nose swab can also test for the influenza virus. Medications called antiviral drugs can be prescribed by a doctor and used to treat flu. They should be requested if your loved one has been diagnosed and treatment should not be neglected.
Pneumonia, bacterial bloodstream infections, and sepsis are examples of serious influenza-related complications that are common and more likely to happen to elderly persons. According to the CDC, between 70 percent and 85 percent of seasonal flu-related deaths in the United States occur among people 65 years and older. And people 65 and older account for between about 50 percent and 70 percent of the flu-related hospitalizations. The flu can also lead to an increased risk of heart attack, stroke and disability in elderly patients during the months after they have recovered from their illness. Long-term care residents should be closely monitored after their flu symptoms have passed and have the right to request that care.
Extra precautions should be made to keep your nursing home loved ones safe. Family members should be checking in frequently by phone and in-person during and after any flu-like symptom or sickness has occurred. Likewise, long-term care providers should be extra vigilant in implementing influenza prevention measures to avoid flu-related complications and outbreaks in the upcoming 2018-2019 season.
We expect our parents, relatives, and elderly friends to be kept safe in nursing homes and when sick, receive the care needed to heal. And while we may not be able to protect them from influenza, nursing home workers should be providing an acceptable standard of care during and after an illness.
Stephen Wagner and Jason Reese can handle your long-term care or nursing home negligence claim with years of experience and proven results. Call the law firm of Wagner Reese today or connect with us by submitting our online form and our attorneys will review your information.