Issue 2.36 – Outbreak

Catherine arrived at the doors of the Manor, and immediately noticed posters everywhere. ‘Due to a recent influenza outbreak, and for the safety and health of our residents, the Manor has been placed under outbreak precautions as per Public Health guidelines.’ “You’ve got to be kidding me!,” Catherine shouted out loud, exacerbated. She peeked in through the windows for any other signs of what she should do. The lady at the front desk waved her in.

“Hi there, I’m the Robertson’s daughter. Dad wanted me to drop off his favourite Kleenex and soup. Do I just go up?” The receptionist shook her head. “We are strongly advising visitors to stay away for the time being until outbreak protocols are lifted, but if you really need to head upstairs all visitors must wear protective clothing.” Catherine put her hands on her hips. “So, I have to wear one of those suits with the mask, gloves and gown?” The receptionist nodded. “Yes. I’m sorry.” “Ugh,” Catherine sighed. The receptionist continued, “According to our records, both your parents are symptomatic right now. It may be best to leave the items with me and I can make sure they make their way up to their suite.” Catherine looked outside. It was starting to snow again. She couldn’t believe she had driven an hour to deliver soup and Kleenex and now the weather had turned. The roads would only get worse the longer she stayed. “Maybe it’s for the best,” she grimaced. She left the items on the counter and gave a reluctant smile. “Let them know I love them and I’m sorry I didn’t come up, I will give them a call later.”

*************************************************************************************** Hazel was feeling slightly better. She was a tad congested, but her fever had finally broke and other symptoms were improving. Best of all, she had found her appetite again. “Charlie, I’m going downstairs to meet Catherine…she’s on her way…and I might grab a bite to eat. Did you want me to get you anything?” Charlie just groaned from his armchair, which he had not left all night and was in no shape to leave any time soon. Hazel just rolled her eyes. Charlie did not deal well with sickness.

“Mrs. Robertson, I’m sorry, but you’ll have to stay in your room.” Hazel no sooner had her foot out the door when Mary Ellen, one of the housekeeping managers came over. “Public Health has declared an influenza outbreak at the Manor. We’re now all under outbreak protocol. We’re trying to make our way through the floors and let everybody know right away.” Hazel was confused. “Well, my daughter Catherine should be here any minute, and I just wanted to grab a cup of tea and a muffin from downstairs.” “I’m sorry Mrs. Robertson,” Mary Ellen explained. “Everyone showing symptoms will be getting meals brought up to their rooms. Someone will be by to check on you shortly, but for now, we have to tell everyone who’s been sick to remain in their rooms.” “Well, how long is that going to be?” Hazel asked. “I really need some tea.” Hazel let out a croupy-type cough. “It shouldn’t be too long.” Mary Ellen smiled. “I’ll find Eli and see if he can bring you up a cup of tea.” Hazel just shrugged and went back inside.

“Looks like we’re stuck in here for a while, Charlie.” Hazel said begrudgingly. “What was that? I can’t hear you. My ears are all plugged up,” Charlie whined. Hazel sighed. “Never you mind dear, it’s not really going to affect you right now anyhow.”

************************************************************************************** Outbreaks are always a risk for seniors. Viruses and infections can spread rapidly through a congregate living setting, posing serious health risks for those with compromised immune systems or complex health issues. Staff members are required by Public Health under the Medical Officer to follow very specific protocols once an outbreak is declared. Proper infection control measures must be taken, including protective gear, sanitation and enhanced hygiene practices. To limit the spread of infection, symptomatic residents must remain in their suites and usually all scheduled activities are cancelled until the outbreak is declared over.

Have you had any experiences with outbreak controls as a resident, staff member or family member? What were some of the things you noted? What were some of the challenges you faced? We’d like to hear from you, so share your stories with us below.

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