The bad flu season is finally showing signs of easing up for most Americans. For senior-housing companies, the worst is yet to come.

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The bad flu season is finally showing signs of easing up for most Americans. For senior-housing companies, the worst is yet to come.

During earning calls this month, senior-housing operators and landlords have lamented a harsh flu season that has led ailing residents to move out of their facilities and forced operators to temporarily halt admissions for fear of spreading the virus.

Brookdale Senior Living Chief Financial Officer Cindy Baier said on a call Thursday that the current flu season has been the worst for seniors in two decades. Cumulatively, the company’s facilities were closed to new move-ins for more than 1,000 days in the first month and a half of 2018, Baier said. That compares with about 800 days during the entire first quarter of last year. Executives from publicly traded landlords Welltower, Ventas and HCP all said that the severe flu season will hurt first-quarter results.

“The effects tend to linger into the second quarter, just because of the natural timing of when vacancies happen and how long it takes for them to be filled,” said Jeffrey Langbaum, a senior analyst at Bloomberg Intelligence. “There’s nothing they can really do to prevent it except wait for it to run its course.”

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This winter has been especially trying. Influenza and pneumonia accounted for 9.8 percent of all U.S. deaths during the week ended Jan. 27, after peaking above 10 percent. The number of deaths from this year’s outbreak could outpace those from late 2009, which was marked by the swine-flu epidemic.

These elevated rates will weigh on revenue for senior-housing landlords and operators, whose elderly residents are especially vulnerable to the flu. When the virus forces residents into hospitals, senior-housing firms lose customers, leading executives on conference calls to use such terminology as “accelerated resident move-outs” and “attrition due to death.” A flu outbreak also can force facilities into quarantine, during which time residents are kept in their rooms and admissions restricted. And, like all employers, senior-housing operators have to grapple with missed workdays due to illness.