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Essentia Health, Tri-County Health issue visitor restrictions due to flu virus

Essentia Health-St. Joseph's Medical Center is asking that visitors be limited to immediate family only, and request children do not visit at this time. Tri-County Health Care is restricting visitors to immediate family older than 18, effective Friday, Dec. 29, at 3 p.m. until further notice. BrainerdDispatch.com Illustration

Essentia Health-St. Joseph's Medical Center in Brainerd and Tri-County Health Care in Wadena are restricting who can visit their hospitals and clinics as a precautionary measure due to high levels of influenza and influenza-like illness.

Essentia Health-St. Joseph's Medical Center is asking that visitors be limited to immediate family only, and request children do not visit at this time.

Tri-County Health Care is restricting visitors to immediate family older than 18, effective Friday, Dec. 29, at 3 p.m. until further notice.

"We at Tri-County have a responsibility to protect our patients and communities from preventable illnesses like influenza," said Ben Hess, M.D., Tri-County chief medical officer, in a news release. "This restriction will help us continue to keep everyone safe and healthy."

Tri-County is monitoring the situation and will inform the public of any changes.

The following precautions will help protect you from influenza and other illnesses circulating in the community:

• Clean your hands often with soap and water or an alcohol-based hand rub;

• Cover your nose and mouth when you cough or sneeze;

• Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth;

• Disinfect high touch surfaces and objects frequently.

The best way to protect yourself and your family against the flu is to get vaccinated. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend a flu vaccine for anyone who is 6 months old or older. It's not too late to get your flu vaccine. Some people who get the flu shot may still get the flu but typically symptoms will be milder.

"Getting vaccinated is the best way to protect yourself, your family, and your community from the flu," Kari Russell, RN, Infection Preventionist at Essentia Health-St. Joseph's Medical Center, said in a news release. "Other precautions you should take include cover your nose and mouth when you cough or sneeze, wash your hands frequently with soap and water or alcohol based hand rubs, and do not go to work or school if you are sick."

Flu-like symptoms include fever, cough, sore throat, runny nose, body aches, headache, chills and fatigue. If you are experiencing any of these symptoms:

• The CDC recommends that you stay home for 24 hours after your fever is gone without the use of fever-reducing medicine.

• Essentia Health is encouraging the public not to visit patients in the hospital unless you are immediate family and do not have a fever or cough.

• Flu vaccine is available at all of the Essentia Health Clinics.

To make a flu vaccination appointment call your local Essentia Health Clinic or 218-828-7100. The cost of a flu vaccine is covered by Medicare Part B, Medicaid and most private insurance companies.