Windsor’s elderly hit hardest by influenza this year

Sreedha Varanasi
By Sreedha Varanasi January 13, 2018 06:35

Lori Piccinin at the Windsor Essex Health Unit. Photo by Sreedha Varanasi.

Windsor’s elderly have been targeted by this season’s severe influenza-A and -B outbreaks.

There are “around 14 or 15” care homes in outbreak right now, according to Lora Piccinin, manager of infectious disease prevention for the Windsor Essex Health Unit.

She said this is high, compared to the seasonal cap of seven outbreak homes last year.

There are “about 60 lab-confirmed cases” of influenza in the community, she said. However, she speculated the number could be higher since the people being tested are usually already in-hospital or in long-term care homes.

Piccinin said people in the younger, healthier demographic often carry the virus into care homes and infect the elderly.

“People are going to visit their grandmother or grandfather in long term care home and they’re sick, and they bring germs into the elderly that way,” said Piccinin.

“The very old…are frail [and] they have a lot of chronic disease conditions. They are immunocompromised and they just don’t have the same resilience to fight off influenza.”

Piccinin confirmed the one death caused by influenza this season was an elderly man.

One care home in Windsor affected by the outbreak is Victoria Park Homes.

Leigh Vachon, the executive director at Victoria Manor Supportive Housing, said she’s in agreement with Piccinin about why the elderly are so vulnerable to the virus.

“A lot of this is about compromised immunity,” she said.

Vachon also said many care home residents also forget basic hygiene practices.

In the case of declared outbreaks such as this one, Vachon said the health unit provides care homes with an intensive outbreak management manual as well as any resources that may be needed. She said one of the health unit’s recommendations is to assemble a designated “outbreak management team.”

“We have a team….[but] even if you’re practicing really good outbreak management…somebody is going to touch a button that someone has already touched, and even if you clean it two seconds later, the damage is already done,” said Vachon.“On top of the things that are absolutely expected by the health unit, we have our own internal policies that are on top of that.”

She said hand sanitizing stations top the list of important preventative measures during flu season for Victoria Park Homes.

Vachon said every new illness that comes to Victoria Park Homes is unlike the one before, but they’re managing.

Meanwhile, the health unit the best way to prevent the spread is to practice hygiene and to know how to recognize symptoms. She said people who are sick should just stay home.

“The [virus] infiltrates your body and causes symptoms like severe coughing, headaches, runny nose [and] sore throat. Influenza is much worse than a cold,” said Piccinin.

“Influenza really affects the body and coughing is much more severe. With influenza, you usually get high fevers.”

Sreedha Varanasi
By Sreedha Varanasi January 13, 2018 06:35

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