Flu outbreak at aged home to be cleared

An aged care centre on the NSW south coast may be cleared after a serious outbreak of the flu virus.
An aged care centre on the NSW south coast may be cleared after a serious outbreak of the flu virus.

An aged care centre on the NSW south coast hopes to be given a clean bill of health within days after a serious outbreak of the flu virus resulted in a number of residents dying in hospital.

The latest NSW Health statistics suggest there have been outbreaks at 87 residential care facilities so far this year with 18 related deaths across the state.

There have been 57 influenza deaths in total in 2019, according to Friday's surveillance report.

The Marco Polo Aged Care Centre at Unanderra, near Wollongong, remains in "outbreak management" mode after residents were first diagnosed with flu over the June long weekend.

Approximately 20 residents and 20 staff have presented with flu symptoms, manager Robert O'Shea told AAP on Wednesday.

The centre put in place isolation practices but five residents were taken to hospital with three of them dying.

The centre hasn't been formally advised as to the cause of their deaths, Mr O'Shea said.

Another resident who had flu symptoms and remained at the centre also died although they had received treatment and recovered from the virus.

Staff with symptoms have been encouraged to stay away from the centre and get clearance before they are allowed back on site.

Families were also encouraged not to visit, but if they chose to ignore the advice, were asked to take precautions such as wearing masks.

The centre expects to be given the all-clear by NSW Health on Friday.

"At this stage, we have no residents that have newly presented with flu symptoms, so that's very positive, and likewise no new staff have come down with the flu either," Mr O'Shea said.

Deaths of residents affect more than just their immediate family members, as staff at Marco Polo form relationships with them and "more or less adopt them as part of their extended family", Mr O'Shea said.

"When those people pass away, we feel that."

Mr O'Shea made a public plea for people to get their flu shot.

Australian Medical Association president Tony Bartone on Wednesday said while the flu was generally less severe in 2019 than previous seasons "the absolute numbers are obviously much more ahead than this time last year and in previous years".

Dr Bartone said employees at nursing homes should be vaccinated for their own health and to "minimise the risk of passing on influenza to the susceptible residents in the facility".

Australian Associated Press