Claremore Daily Progress

January 18, 2013

Flu, acute stomach bug breaks out in long-term care facilities

Mark Friedel
Staff Reporter

CLAREMORE — The Oklahoma State Department of Health (OSDH) Acute Disease Service (ADS) has issued reports of influenza and acute gastroenteritis outbreaks in long-term care facilities (LTCF). As flu activity increases, so does the risk of illness among LTCF residents and staff.

Since Sept. 30, eight deaths and 484 hospitalizations have been reported to the OSDH. Counties of residents with flu-associated deaths include- Creek, Mayes, Muskogee, Pittsburg, Rogers and Tulsa County.
According to a release from the Oklahoma Health Alert Network five LTCFs located across the state reported outbreaks of flu among residents and employees.
In addition, five acute gastroenteritis outbreaks involving LTCF residents and staff have been reported to the ADS so far this month. Acute Gastroenteritis, a severe inflammation or infection of the digestive tract, can be deadly if left untreated.
Acute gastroenteritis is a severe inflammation or infection of the digestive tract, particularly the stomach and intestines and can be deadly if left untreated.
According to OSDH’s public health fact sheet the microorganism Norovirus, causes acute gastro, spreads quickly and is often responsible for outbreaks in institutional settings. Achieving high seasonal flu vaccine rates is the most important means to preventing an outbreak in a LTCF. Facilities should review immunization records of all residents to ensure they have been provided the opportunity to receive this year’s flu vaccine.
OSDH Director of Communications Leslea Bennett-Webb said Norovirus is often thought of to be a stomach flu because the side effects are mostly in the abdominal, intestinal area and can include vomiting and diarreha.
“Influenza is actually a respiratory problem,” said Webb. “There is no such thing as a stomach flu.”
No specific treatment for Norovirus is available. The best prevention against both the flu and norovirus is to wash hands with a generous amount of soap, she said.
Outbreaks have been linked to sick food handlers, contaminated shell fish or water contaminated with sewage.