Influenza virus
Influenza virus cells, high-lighted through a florescent microscope, are identified during tests at the World Health Organization (WHO) National Influenza Center in Bangkok on October 21, 2005. Thailand awaited test results on another suspected bird flu case on Friday after a resurgence of the killer virus in Asia, although Indonesian fears the H5N1 strain was mutating eased as a father and son proved negative. Reuters/Adrees Latif

Amid a deadly virus outbreak in far north Queensland, a nursing home has been shut down and health authorities issued a warning. A deadly flu outbreak at a Westcourt, Cairns aged facility has claimed three lives and 60 others have been reported sick, which included 24 staff.

Health authorities will keep the home shut till all other cases have subsided. People have fallen sick from respiratory illness at Mercy Place in Westcourt since Feb. 14. This is the second outbreak this year that has killed residents at nursing homes in this region.

“In order to reduce the risk of infection, we encourage families and other regular visitors to aged care facilities to avoid visiting when they have cold or flu-like symptoms. Ensure they have an annual seasonal flu vaccination and adhere to good hygiene, such as thorough handwashing, when they do visit,” said Dr. Richard Gair, Cairns public health director.

According to The Daily Telegraph, people with cold and flu symptoms have been advised to stay away from nursing homes. Seven people died at Herberton Hospital at the start of the year. Mercy Place has been locked down, and manager Mercy Health has activated safety and control measures to protect that wellbeing of the residents’ families and also staff.

Anita Ghose, the care facility’s Queensland manager, said the majority of residents and staff have been tested for common viruses. Unfortunately, a number of tests returned positive for influenza B. The nursing home is working closely with Queensland Health to check the outbreak.

Geoff Rowe, Queensland Aged and Disability Advocacy CEO, expressed great concern as fatal disease outbreaks at nursing homes were uncommon. According to him, aged care is a heavily-regulated industry.

“The (Australian Aged Care) Quality Agency does make unannounced visits to facilities, just to check that all of the standards are being met. When you get a situation like this, that is out of the ordinary, it does raise concerns,” said Rowe.