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South Florida Nursing Home Flu Outbreaks Reported

Flu season rolls around every year like clockwork, and many people view it as an uncomfortable inconvenience in which the worst side effect is having to miss a few days of work.

However, our West Palm Beach nursing home negligence attorneys know that for elderly and ill people living in assisted living or nursing home facilities, the virus can be deadly.

Already, there have been two flu outbreaks reported at local nursing homes in Palm Beach County, in addition to the fact that more people of all ages are being raced to the emergency room with flu-like symptoms.

All of this prompted local health officials to boost ratings of the local flu impact from “mild” to “moderate” in documents filed recently with the state. That upgrade is expected to continue through this month and into March. Other areas to report a moderate spread of the virus were St. Lucie and Martin Counties. As of yet, we have not seen the highest-level rating, which is “widespread.”

Last month, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control reported that pneumonia deaths and flu-like symptoms had risen to the level of an epidemic nationwide – with the most common thread, a strain called A H3, causing the most fatalities in the elderly.

When analysts researched hospitalization rates for all ages, it stood at nearly 20 per 100,000 people. But when they looked solely at the over-65 population, they found it was more than quadruple that, with about 82 per 100,000 being rushed to the ER.

In Florida, the state health department reports that another strain, called influenza A, is most commonly occurring in nursing homes, skilled nursing facilities as well as other long-term care centers.

The nursing homes in Palm Beach County that reported outbreaks to the health department weren’t named, but it is known that one was located in the south and the other centrally. In one case, nursing home staff reported nearly a dozen residents who had fevers, coughs, aches and runny noses. A quarter of them were sent to the hospital.

In the other nursing home, five residents had fallen ill.

While the flu vaccine being produced this year has reportedly proven more than 60 percent effective in helping to ward off the illness, CDC officials say they are gravely concerned that vaccination rates among nursing home employees was so incredibly low.

Even though about 85 percent of other health care workers (nurses, doctors, nurse practitioners, etc.) got the flu shot this year, fewer than half of all health care workers at nursing home had done the same.

We find this troubling as well, when you consider all of the facts:
–You have a virus that is particularly harmful and potentially deadly to older populations and has been deemed an “epidemic” by federal authorities;
–Nursing homes have an opportunity to curb the transmission of that virus by more than half by vaccinating its workers – the ones most likely to bring in outside germs and pass them from patient to patient;
–Those precautions aren’t being taken.

In situations where a resident subsequently falls ill and dies, this is clearly negligence.

Freeman, Mallard, Sharp & Gonzalez — 1-800-561-7777 for a free appointment to discuss your rights.

Additional Resources:
Flu on rise in county; two outbreaks reported in nursing homes, Jan. 24, 2013, By Sonja Isger, Palm Beach Post

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