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County Encourages Health Workers to Get Flu Vaccine Following Viral Outbreak at Redwoods Senior Facility

The deaths of two patients over the age of 85 enforces the message that the elderly and frail are vulnerable to illnesses, and health care workers should take available measures, like getting a flu vaccine, to prevent diseases from spreading.

Two female patients over the age of 85 who died following a viral outbreak at The Redwoods senior facility serve as a sad reminder for health care workers to receive their flu vaccinations, said Marin County Public Health Officer Matthew Willis.

"What it does is enforce the message that frail and elderly patients are particularly vulnerable to any illness," he said.

A wave of norovirus hit the residential care facility on Dec. 24, and sickened a total of 63 staff and residents. It was a possible contributing factor to the death of two patients, who also suffered from other serious medical conditions. Symptoms of the highly contagious virus include dehydration, vomiting and diarrhea.

Since the norovirus spreads quickly often through bodily contact it's unclear where the outbreak originated from, Willis said. There's also no vaccine or specific treatment, but that doesn't hold true for other viruses, particularly in the midst of influenza season.

“This is reminder to make sure we’re doing what we can to protect patients in ways we can control,” Willis said.

In other words, get your flu shot.

Willis, who became the county’s public health officer in mid-November, is supportive of but hasn't yet joined the ranks of health officials in San Francisco, Alameda, Contra Costa, Santa Clara, Sonoma and other counties around California who mandated vaccination or masks for health workers in 2012.

Many hospitals, including Marin General and Novato Community, have also implemented vaccination mandates for their workers and boast a 95 percent vaccination rate.

In September, Gov. Jerry Brown vetoed a bill that would have required California clinics and health facilities to achieve a 90 percent or higher flu vaccination rate by mid-2015, saying he was confident that local governments and health facilities could raise vaccination rates without a new state law.

Willis may consider the measure this year, but in the meantime is focusing his attention on improving vaccine rates among staff at skilled nursing facilities and nursing homes, which are at just 55 percent nationally, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. And 90 percent of influenza deaths are among those 65 and older, he said. 

“It’s a setting in which the population is more vulnerable and the staff is less vaccinated,” Willis said.

Vaccination rates among all health care workers in Marin are at nearly 65 percent, which is line with the national average, according to the most recent data available from the California Department of Public Health. But to learn more about how local nursing facilities measure up, in December the county sent letters to each of the 13 Marin centers – including The Redwoods in Mill Valley, the Rafael in San Rafael and the Tamalpais in Greenbrae – to seek data on clients taken to emergency rooms with flu-like symptoms from nursing facilities, and to determine vaccination rates among staff.

The surveys are due by the end of this week, Willis said, and the county will tally the results and prioritize where to focus outreach and support for vaccinations.

So far, Marin has been fortunate this flu season. Marin Health and Human Services reports about 6 percent of patients with flu-like symptoms tested positive for influenza the week of December 29, which is under the 10 percent threshold that indicates the virus is in season.

“We’re flirting with that line,” he said. Although flu season may be late this year, it's a matter of when, not if, an outbreak will occur.

“Which means,” Willis said, “there’s still time to get vaccinated.”

Rico January 09, 2013 at 11:55 PM
Have no fear, there's an app for that. I saw on KTVU news yesterday that Facebook (most likely in conjunction with the taxpayer funded CDC and FBI) has created a new tracking app to help people who use Facebook find out which of their "friends" gave them the flu . The program tracks individuals who post on Facebook who use keywords like "sniffles", "fever", "runny nose", "flu", "cold" and also Facebook logs friends who post in the late of night. The theory is that people who post late at night are probably not getting enough sleep, and thereby their immune system's defence is down and they are likely to get you sick. That makes sense to me. The news segment also went on to say that getting a vaccine does not guarantee that a person will not contract the flu, that the vaccine only works on 60 percent of the people to prevent them from getting the same strain next year. That also makes sense, meaning that if one is exposed to the virus this season, the vaccine will not help you at all. It is wonderful that Facebook keeps such a close eye on tracking their users habits, there are some nasty viruses, trojans, bugs and worms going around in cyberspace, and it is always good to find out what made you or your computer sick. But, I feel sorry for anyone who has a job that their employer mandates any kind of vaccine.
Rico January 11, 2013 at 10:39 PM
Before condidering getting any kind of vaccine for yourself or your family, read this http//:journal.livingfood.us
Rico January 11, 2013 at 10:40 PM
typo: I meant considering
Harold H. January 12, 2013 at 01:09 AM
Ricardo, my daughter refuses to vaccinate her son with the latest shots. I'm an old-school guy, but she simply refuses. (I've never had flu shot, but was after her for MMR). Before Thanksgiving I had a total hip replacement at Marin General Hospital. One of my physical therapists was wearing a mask because it's hospital policy if you don't get the shot. Funny thing was my surgeon asked why she was wearing it... then chuckled cuz he said he didn't get a shot and he's walking all over the place.
Rico January 12, 2013 at 05:22 AM
Harold, I think that your physical therapist was wearing a mask because she was trying to protect herself from othe sick people in the hospital. Hospitals are extremely dangerous places to be due to cost cutting measures and all the infectious diseases floating around, like staph, MERSA and VERSA to name a few. Also, I recently read that 97 percent of the people who get the MMR vaccine get sick. That is a fact in my case, I had the MMR vaccine and got both the mumps and the measels. If anyone wants to read more about vaccines, check out naturalnews.com
Jillian Brady January 12, 2013 at 07:39 AM
Harold, do you mean that your daughter does not inoculate her child at all? if so, I wish she would educate herself on this as she is not only endangering the health of her child, she is one of those who are helping to re enter these diseases back into the population. Richard, stop spreading mis information. That is not a fact. it takes 2 weeks for flu vaccine to kick in and while it does not negate the possibility of contracting this flu virus, it does diminish the chances while also reducing the severity of the symptoms in case on does contract it. Spreading bad information like this is dangerous. Unless you're a doctor or in the medical field, you should refrain from uttering such nonsense. We have enough Jenny McCarthy's ( a true idiot) in the world.
Jillian Brady January 12, 2013 at 07:43 AM
Ricardo, why not post a link to real medical online sites written by doctors and medical researchers? Again, stop spreading misinformation on a subject with which you know nothing. At least have the good sense to shut up when you know you are ignorant about a subject.
Leah January 12, 2013 at 07:32 PM
If a person is supporting a healthy immune system by living a healthy lifestyle then there is no way that being vaccinated will improve their chances of staying healthy. Also, it is not very nice to call anyone an idiot. If you believe that doctors are super humans who can only tell the truth then you have been brainwashed. I have seen first hand how living and eating right can not only maintain one's health but reverse serious degenerative diseases in which doctors of traditional medicine had just given drugs to ease the pain or mask symptoms. I have lived well without being vaccinated and I am not a carrier of disease. The families that I have come in contact with that choose not to vaccinate tend to have a plant based diet, stay away from sweets and fast food, exercise, get plenty of rest, and drink water. If a person is following the Standard American Diet (SAD) then there is a good chance with or without vaccines they will not only be sickly and die from the top killers-heart disease and cancer but that lifestyle will be passed to their children. The body can take quite a bit of abuse but by 50 these people are showing signs of the abuse.
Rico January 15, 2013 at 06:40 PM
Thank you Leah. You speak the truth very well.
Rico January 18, 2013 at 02:48 AM
It looks like the health officials and the pharmaceutical corporations really missed the mark again this year. The regular seasonal flu is not much of a problem (even though the media and officials have really ramped up the flu vaccine ad campaign), now the problem is the Norovirus. But it's too late to cook up a batch of toxic Norovirus stew and sell it as a vaccine this year. Hopefully the pharaceutical corporations can capitalize on this new Norovirus "pandemic" next year, they'd better "get crackin" if they want to come out of this smelling like a rose and please their investors. This year has been a wash for them. The next pandemic planned is the H5N1 flu vaccination program, they lost well over $200 million on the H1N1 hoax !, "the pandemic that didn't pan out", and were stuck with over 80 million unsold doses of that vaccine.
Bill McGee January 18, 2013 at 05:38 AM
Ricardo - I really don't care about your position on the flu vaccine but I get tired of reading facts and figures which are never documented. You seem to make up figures as you please. Where do you get your information? Everything I have read and heard is the country is experiencing a very bad flu season, in most states. California is a notable exception. I did a quick search and all the news stories are all fairly consistent but I suppose the pharmacueutical corps are paying all the newspapers and the CDC to lie for them? I can't wait to hear your story about that one Ricardo. http://www.kypost.com/dpps/news/national/flu-outbreak-2013-a-snapshot-of-influenza-activity-in-all-50-states_8169511 Ricardo, many of your posts are articulate and with solid substance...and then there are others where you go off on your pet peeves like this one. Too funny.

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