Nursing Homes Prepare for the Flu

While nursing homes can be a huge life-saver for families unable to care for their family members, having dozens (or sometimes hundreds) of people beneath the same roof may give some cause for pause – especially when flu season hits.

According to The Patriot News out of Central PA, several Pennsylvania nursing homes, especially those in the Harrisburg area, are preparing for a particularly difficult flu season. There have already been several news reports about this flu season hitting harder than those previous.

The problem in nursing homes is three-fold. The first is the close confines the residents share. If one becomes sick, she may share with her roommates or those she meets in common areas. Even if she doesn’t share her illness via direct contact, the contact she has with nurses who aren’t practicing proper hygiene may act as a conduit.

The second problem is family members and visitors. In the Elizabethtown home in question, Masonic Villages, anyone who steps into the facility who has not had a flu shot must wear a mask when visiting residents. Those who have had the flu are cautioned not to visit until they’ve been fever-free for a full 24-hour period.

Finally, the nurses and caregivers themselves may become an issue. While most healthcare facilities have not in the past required workers to have a flu shot, there is now a precedent in other areas. Can you imagine being told that if you refuse a flu shot you’ll be fired from your job?

Right now, the staff at the Masonic Villages home is receiving preventative Tamiflu. If given within 24-48 hours of exposure or the onset of symptoms, it is believed that Tamiflu can prevent or decrease the severity of flu symptoms.

So what do you think? Is there really any way to prevent the flu – or any other virus – from spreading? Is it fair to force healthcare workers to take a flu shot? Let us know what you think in the comments.

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