Virus spreads at senior housing

MILL CREEK — A retiree at Merrill Gardens went to the hospital with flulike symptoms, and now a virus has spread to nearly one in 10 residents at the retirement community.

Residents started getting sick on Tuesday. Merrill Gardens closed the dining room and is keeping people out of common areas to try to halt the spread of the virus. Now, 19 of the 202 people living there are ill, said Loree Wagner, a Merrill Gardens spokeswoman.

The resident was sent to a local hospital Tuesday night, Wagner said. She said she had no update on his condition.

“We’re doing everything we can right now, following our procedures, to make sure we do a good job of taking care of people who are ill … and preventing the spread of the illness to other residents,” she said.

Although no tests have been conducted, the bug appears to be a lower-intestinal virus, said Suzanne Pate, a spokeswoman for the Snohomish Health District.

Resident Jerri Fredin, 83, who has lived at Merrill Gardens since August 2004, said she had no idea there was a problem until Wednesday morning. A staff member informed her they would be serving people meals by putting a tray at their door.

“To have the whole dining room shut down, this came as a shock to me,” she said. “I know they don’t shut down the dining room without good cause.”

Administrators have consulted with the health district about what steps to take, Wagner said.

One of the health district’s communicable-disease nurses suggested keeping sick people separated from those without symptoms and having residents eat in their room instead of the dining room, Pate said.

The dining room and food service areas are being disinfected, Pate said.

Wagner said administrators will take a count of how many people are sick today to determine if the virus is spreading or starting to decline. “We’ll track it very carefully,” she added.

Reporter Sharon Salyer: 425-339-3486 or

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