Nursing homes brace for flu as virus kills 3 Cuyahoga County seniors

CLEVELAND, OH (WOIO) - Three people in Cuyahoga County died from complications associated with the flu last week, bringing the total number of flu-related deaths to five this season.

Last week, the three people who died were all over the age of 78, illustrating how this flu season is hitting the elderly particularly hard.

Homewatch CareGivers of Northeast Ohio owner Rosey Malkin has watched the virus spread like wildfire.

"In the elderly, it could be just a matter of days and you could have half your population that have the flu," she said.

All it takes is a sneeze or a cough and anyone can catch the virus. People above the age of 65 are especially susceptible and it takes them even longer to recover.

"When we're older we may not have as robust of an immune system, so that's when the viruses take a toll on us, rather than a young person," said University Hospitals Emergency Room Dr. Justin Yax.

Yax said people with mild flu symptoms, like a fever, cough or sore throat, should take aspirin or Tylenol and get some rest, but there does come a point when people need to see a doctor.

"The reason you should come to the emergency room is if you can't get out of bed or if you're not eating, not drinking, not keeping fluids down," Yax said.

For the elderly, those symptoms are even more severe and, potentially, deadly, which is why nursing homes are taking the flu seriously.

"They're putting out masks and gowns and gloves for visitors and they're encouraging everyone to wear them. I know that they're cleaning their common areas twice a day and their patient rooms," said Malkin.

Some places are also posting signs that ask visitors to stay away unless it's absolutely necessary. They're also canceling group activities, since that's where the flu spreads the fastest.

Malkin said she's seen places confine people to their rooms in an effort to take every step they can to keep seniors healthy this flu season.

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