National

Nursing homes see spate of deaths amid flu outbreak across Japan

Kyodo, JIJI

Amid an outbreak of influenza, the nation has seen a spate of deaths in recent days following mass infections at nursing care facilities.

A facility called Shimizu Funai no Sato in Nantan, Kyoto Prefecture, said Tuesday that an 83-year-old resident died Sunday amid the outbreak, which has infected 14 residents in their 70s to 90s and 12 staff members.

The man’s condition deteriorated rapidly on Saturday before his death the following day, according to the facility. Others diagnosed with influenza are recovering, the facility said.

On Monday, the Hyogo Prefectural Government announced that seven residents of the Hokudanso facility in Awaji died after contracting influenza this month.

The residents, age between 71 and 99, were among 74 residents and staff members who came down with the disease.

According to the prefectural government, a staff member at the facility was diagnosed with influenza on Jan. 8. The facility reported the mass infection on Jan. 11, when one of the residents died.

All residents and staff members at the facility received flu vaccinations, but only staff members were given anti-flu drugs as a precaution.

Hideki Yoshimura, who heads the facility’s operator, Chidorikai, said the company dealt with the problem by temporarily barring infected staff from coming to work and infected residents from going out, among other measures.

“The infection has spread much further than expected,” Yoshimura added.

On Sunday, the Akita Prefectural Government said a 96-year-old woman diagnosed with influenza died of pneumonia at the Shokyoen facility in the town of Ugo, bringing the death toll from the outbreak at the site to four this month.

At a news conference on Sunday, Yutaka Ando, the mayor of Ugo — which runs the facility — vowed to prevent further deaths.

According to Ando and other officials, the facility has spaces for infected residents partitioned with curtains because it has no private rooms. They said the measure is appropriate as it follows the health ministry’s guidelines.

“We will consider measures to be taken when flu infection occurs at the facility, including isolation,” Ando said.

According to the health ministry’s latest data, the average number of flu patients per medical institution exceeded 30, a threshold which suggests an outbreak, in the week through Jan. 13.

The total number of flu patients who were treated at medical institutions across the country during that week is estimated at 1,635,000, nearly triple the total of about 586,000 the previous week.

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