Flu outbreak kills two, sickens 30 at Arroyo Grande care facility

Two people died and 30 were sickened with the flu at the Arroyo Grande Care Center.
Two people died and 30 were sickened with the flu at the Arroyo Grande Care Center. dmiddlecamp@thetribunenews.com

A flu outbreak at an Arroyo Grande senior living facility has killed two and sickened 30, according to the San Luis Obispo County Department of Public Health.

Public health officials confirmed the flu outbreak occurred at the Arroyo Grande Care Center at 1212 Farroll Ave.

The first few people started getting sick Christmas weekend, said Ann McDowell, an epidemiologist with the department. Between then and now, two people have died because of complications.

“They were very elderly and had other medical conditions, so they were weakened when the flu struck,” McDowell said.

It was unclear whether the patients had been vaccinated.

McDowell said that in this case, the facility stops admitting new people and vaccinates all existing patients, while also giving them anti-virals to prevent further spread of the virus. She could not give the name of the facility.

Angela Hopkins, vice president of operations for the facility’s parent company, Compass Health, confirmed it has now vaccinated 100 percent of its patients. She also said 96 percent of the facility’s population, including the two people who died, were vaccinated prior to the outbreak.

“The vaccine is not 100 percent, especially in our children and our elders,” Hopkins said.

The strain of influenza affecting the facility, H3N2, is especially dangerous to the elderly and the very young, McDowell said.

“When we see H3N2 as the predominant circulating virus, mortality tends to go up,” McDowell said.

In the county, flu season peaks in January and February. McDowell said the department has already seen a number of cases, though she could not give a specific amount.

“We know it’s here and spread throughout the county,” McDowell said.

The department recommends that everyone wash their hands and get vaccinated.

Additionally, “if you are feeling sick, don’t go to work and expose people to the flu, especially those who are vulnerable,” said McDowell, adding that people who are ill should avoid visiting elderly or young relatives.

Gabby Ferreira: 805-781-7858, @Its_GabbyF