An outbreak of influenza that has been spreading throughout the community has made its way into Talarico Place, a 60 bed long-term care facility in Castlegar, where it has taken the lives of up to four residents. Three of those deaths have been confirmed as influenza related and the fourth is suspected to be influenza related.
Dr. Keith Merritt, who has been in Castlegar for 40 years, reports that it is the most complicated and aggressive outbreak in recent history. Merritt has retired from family practice and is now the medical director for both Talarico Place and Castleview Care Centre, which puts him in both administrative and patient care roles.
At Talarico Place, a respiratory illness outbreak was first noted on Dec. 18. By Dec. 26, numbers were increasing so swabs were taken from six affected residents to test for influenza. On Dec. 28, 26 out of the 59 residents were showing influenza-like symptoms.
A report on the swabs came back on Dec. 30, confirming five out of the six patients were positive for Influenza type A. This allowed medical professionals to put a definitive name to the cause of the outbreak. “This is unusual, most of the time people can not say this is for sure Influenza type A — five out of six, is a very positive [result],” explained Merritt.
Interior Health infectious disease experts, public health officers, and medical doctors then conferred and declared the site Scenario A — a designation which initiatives specific protocols in order to try and contain the illness. These include additional hygiene and cleanliness measures, no patient transfers in or out of the facility, wearing of masks, discouragement of visitors and the recommendation of antiviral medications as either treatment or prophylaxis.
The majority of residents have now received the antiviral medications.
Unfortunately, in spite of all the extra measures two residents succumbed to their illnesses last week and two more this week. One person was already frail and died from respiratory complications and the other had flu-like symptoms, fell and fractured her hip and never recovered, dying from complications related to the flu. “Two of the 26 people who were symptomatic have died — that is really significant. There is a mortality associated with this,” said Merritt on Friday, before the third and fourth deaths occurred.
There have not been any new cases since Dec. 30, and the outbreak was officially declared over on Tuesday.
There have been 17 facilities within Interior Health experiencing influenza outbreaks, including Poplar Ridge in Trail. Columbia View Lodge in Trail also reports influenza, but is not yet on Interior Health’s list of active facility outbreaks.
So far there has not been an outbreak at Castleview Care Centre, but Merritt is monitoring it closely every day. Health officials are discouraging anyone with cold or flu symptoms from visiting any care facilities.
As for prevention measures, Merritt explained that this year’s flu shot is useful. “The match for this particular influenza strain and the flu shot is pretty good this year,” he said. “Flu shot, hand washing, isolation — these things are the way to go.”