Weak flu shot worries nursing homes - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

Weak flu shot worries nursing homes

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WATERLOO (KWWL) -

The Centers for Disease Control believes this year's flu shot isn't effective against half of the strains currently circulating, which can spell trouble for vulnerable populations.

Sharon Holdiman oversees health for Friendship Village. She said the name fits.

"It's kind of a little community in itself," Holdiman said. "Everybody gets to know everybody pretty well."

Just ask Ethel Valentine. She's been around for a few years.

"1917!" she laughed.

But the close quarters can be a blessing and a curse. Especially since the older residents are especially vulnerable to the flu.

"It could affect their life span," Holdiman said. "They could become very sick."

The reason for the week vaccine -- laboratories have to make the doses in the year prior to flu season, gambling on what strains will rise to the top. This year, their guesses were off.

Still the shot does offer some protection.

And, if an outbreak spreads through Friendship Village, they could have to restrict visitors. Holdiman said they last time they did that was two years ago, and it lasted about week.

"It's quite upsetting when you have to quarantine the health centers to people that want to visit,"Holdiman said. "Especially around holiday time."

Ethel thinks about what it would be like if her daughter was turned away for Christmas. To say she would be upset would be an understatement.

"I sure would, yes," she said.

But before they restrict visitors, staff quarantine sick residents individually. They also push frequent hand-washing and hand sanitizer use for staff.

Still, so far, Ethel's been lucky.

"This is not bragging I hope, but I've been here all this while and never had a cold," she said.

And that's nothing to sneeze at.

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