Fraser Health requires masks for those going to retirement homes

The terrible flu season has prompted the Fraser Health Authority to require everyone going to its residential care facilities (nursing or retirement home) or assisted living buildings to wear a mask and practice stringent hand hygiene during their time at the home.

Only those who have received a flu shot this year will be exempt. The new requirement includes all staff, volunteers and visitors. Fraser Health is asking visitors to avoid going to residential care and assisted living facilities if they are feeling unwell.

Already this flu season, 19 Fraser Health residential care facilities have reported influenza outbreaks, with significant consequences for residents. This is more than twice as many outbreaks as were reported each of the past two years.

Already this flu season, there have been more than three times the number of deaths associated with influenza among residents of residential care facilities than for the last three years combined. There has also been more than four times the number of flu-related hospitalizations from long-term care facilities than in a typical flu season.

Chief medical health officer Dr. Paul Van Buynder has declared the level of influenza virus circulating within Fraser Health communities a health hazard under the provisions of the Public Health Act. This allows for additional measures to be taken to safeguard the health and well-being of the most vulnerable community members.

“We are asking our patients, visitors and staff to take these extra steps to protect their family members, patients, residents and loved ones from this highly contagious and serious virus,” said Van Buynder.

Flu-related visits to Fraser Health emergency departments are at the highest level seen in years.

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