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Hibbing hospital imposes visitor restrictions to stem influenza

Visitor restrictions put into place at Fairview Range Medical Center in Hibbing in hopes of slowing the spread of flu have yet to be copied at other area hospitals.

Visitor restrictions put into place at Fairview Range Medical Center in Hibbing in hopes of slowing the spread of flu have yet to be copied at other area hospitals.

But hospital officials everywhere are reminding visitors to stay away, if unwell.

"We always ask that anyone who is ill with a fever or respiratory illness not visit patients in the hospital," said Dr. Andrew Thompson, an infectious disease specialist at St. Luke's hospital.

Fairview Health Services, which includes the Hibbing hospital, announced this week that it was implementing the restrictions in all seven of its hospitals, effective Thursday.

"Fairview took this step after the Minnesota Department of Health declared influenza to be widespread in the state," the health system said in a news release.

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Most of Fairview's hospitals are in the Twin Cities metro area, where flu counts have been higher so far this season than in the Northland. This week's health department report, which said influenza was widespread in Minnesota for the second-straight week, reported 7.7 hospitalizations per 100,000 people in the metro, compared with 5.2 per 100,000 in Northeastern Minnesota.

One of those was at Community Memorial Hospital in Cloquet, said Nancy Taggart, hospital spokeswoman. Several other patients with flu symptoms were treated in the emergency room.

But the Cloquet hospital, like St. Luke's, hasn't added restrictions, Taggart said. Neither has Essentia Health in its hospitals, spokeswoman Maureen Talarico said.

Fairview's policy also begins by asking that visitors stay away if they may have the flu or have had close contact with someone who is sick, the news release said.

Under the expanded restrictions, the hospitals also will screen visitors for influenza-like symptoms, limit visitors to those 5 and older and instruct patients and visitors on ways to limit the spread of germs.

Visitors are not being required to wear face masks, spokeswoman Jennifer Amundson said, unless they are allowed to visit in spite of having symptoms or having been exposed to influenza.

Such exceptions could be made on a case-by-case basis for compassionate reasons, the health system said.

Related Topics: HEALTHHIBBINGIRON RANGE
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