Month-long flu out­break, which claimed eight lives, is fi­nally over

Wangaratta Chronicle - - Front Page - BY STEVE KELLY

ST JOHN’S Vil­lage in Wangaratta will re­open its doors to the pub­lic to­day af­ter a month long lock­down due to an out­break of the flu virus which killed eight res­i­dents and in­fected 123, in­clud­ing staff.

The re­tire­ment home’s man­age­ment con­firmed yes­ter­day that un­der De­part­ment of Health guide­lines it is able to re­open as it is eight days since the last per­son was di­ag­nosed.

It has been a chal­leng­ing time for res­i­dents, staff and fam­i­lies since the first res­i­dent was di­ag­nosed with the flu on Au­gust 14.

The first two res­i­dents passed away from the virus two and three days later and an­other six died in the last week of Au­gust and early Septem­ber.

Some 72 res­i­dents resid- ing in the hos­tel sec­tion of St John’s Vil­lage con­tracted the flu and those who died were aged be­tween 70 and 94.

St John’s chief ex­ec­u­tive of­fi­cer Glen Phelps said res­i­dents have been ea­ger to get out and re­con­nect with fam­ily and they ex­pect quite a few vis­its from loved ones to­day.

“Res­i­dents have been go­ing a bit stir crazy but we have been able to open up sec­tions as they be­came clear and they have been able to leave with fam­ily mem­bers and re­turn later in the day,” Mr Phelps said.

A large ma­jor­ity of the res­i­dents had been im­mu­nised against the virus and all who passed away had taken the flu shot.

No one knows who or when the virus was brought into the re­tire­ment home and Mr Phelps said it is now about how can the risk of spread be min­imised in the fu­ture.

“It can take 24-48 hours be­fore a per­son can show or feel symp­toms of in­fluenza so some­one may have vis­ited St John’s un­know­ing that they had the virus,” he said.

Only 40 per cent of St John’s staff took the vol­un­tary im­mu­ni­sa­tion against the flu this year, but Min­is­ter for Health Greg Hunt has ini­ti­ated a re­view into how the en­vi­ron­ment could be made safer for aged care res­i­dents na­tion­wide.

This could in­volve the in­tro­duc­tion of manda­tory flu vac­ci­na­tions for all staff work­ing in aged care.

“Older and younger peo­ple and those with pre-ex­ist­ing ill­nesses such as can­cer are more sus­cep­ti­ble to the flu so I think that’s the way we need to go with health in­dus­try staff,” he said.

St John’s re­minds peo­ple that if they think they have a con­ta­gious ill­ness, not to visit aged care fa­cil­i­ties un­til they are well.

skelly@ ne­me­

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