ST JOHN’S FREE OF KILLER FLU
Month-long flu outbreak, which claimed eight lives, is finally over
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.