Senior centers taking extra steps to protect the elderly as flu spreads

Washington Park Senior Center

MILWAUKEE -- As the influenza outbreak continues to spread, the elderly are at greater risk of getting the virus -- which is why community centers and nursing homes are taking extra steps to keep seniors healthy.

A computer lab is often a prime place to find a whole lot of germs, but the Washington Park Senior Center in Milwaukee is squeaky clean, thanks to Maria Patterson.

"We have a daily disinfectant that I use to clean all the equipment in the evening. We have the hand sanitizer. We have baby wipes," said Patterson.

The 68-year-old said she's doing everything she can to make sure she and the other senior citizens who spend time there, stay healthy this flu season; from urging people to wash their hands to getting a flu shot.

"We got the strongest dose for elderly people," said Patterson.

Maria Patterson

Health officials say influenza cases are especially high this year. Between Sept. 1 and Feb. 2, there were more than 800 flu-related hospitalizations across the county. Many of the patients are elderly.

"They have a more compromised immune system," said Lindsey Viegut, Village at Manor Park.

Despite prevention efforts at Village of Manor Park assisted living home in West Allis, 20 residents and 20 staff members have already come down with symptoms.

Village of Manor Park

Village of Manor Park

"With this year's flu season being as harsh as it is, we did experience a small outbreak, so it just shows how rough it is," said Viegut.

Lindsey Viegut

Viegut said of those 40 cases, four occurred at once.

"We're limiting admission. We are controlling the environment by ensuring residents' safety and educating them about what is going on," said Viegut.

Experts say it's not too late to get the flu shot -- and if you start to feel sick, stay in bed and contact your doctor rather than heading to a clinic right away.