Hospital visitors restricted to adults only

Due to continued high incidence of flu illness, including influenza and norovirus in Aitkin County and statewide, Riverwood Healthcare Center has further extended its hospital visitor restrictions to not allow children under 18 to visit its Aitkin campus, effective Jan. 8.

Riverwood implemented its hospital visitor restrictions in mid-December and encourages local residents to NOT visit hospitalized patients if they have: 1) flu-like symptoms of a fever, cough or sore throat, vomiting or diarrhea; 2) a sick family member; or 3) recently been in contact with someone with flu-like symptoms.

The Minnesota Department of Health issued a bulletin on Jan. 8 with this information: The 2014-15 influenza season is emerging as a particularly severe one for Minnesota based on the statistics gathered to date. During the first week in January a fourth pediatric influenza-associated death was identified in Minnesota. Outbreaks in long-term care facilities are increasing, and hospitalizations due to influenza remain elevated. Although the winter break for K-12 schools has slowed down the number of influenza-like illness outbreaks reported, there is continued flu illness in schools.

Health officials went on to report that “since Nov. 1, 2014, 43 gastrointestinal illness outbreaks have been reported to the Minnesota Department of Health, bringing the second biggest start to the norovirus season in 15 years.”

In a Jan. 9 media advisory meeting, Dr. Tom Frieden, director of Centers for Disease Control (CDC), advised that we are half way through this “severe” influenza season. Given the predominant H3N2 strain is not well matched to this year’s vaccine, it is most important for those under age 2, over 65, and those with high risk conditions to call their doctor immediately if they develop influenza-like illness. Individuals with influenza and asthma, chronic lung conditions, diabetes, kidney disease, under age 2 or over 65 will benefit from antiviral therapy if given within 48 hours. Dr. Frieden advised that antiviral therapy is under-utilized, and if given early enough, could prevent the person with influenza from being hospitalized, needing intensive care or save his or her life.

The CDC also advises it is still prudent to be vaccinated to protect against the other influenza strains that usually emerge later in the flu season. Vaccine is still available at the Riverwood Clinics. If you think you have influenza, call Riverwood at (218) 927-2157 for treatment advice.

The public is urged to use all the tools available to reduce the impact of influenza disease, including washing your hands often, covering your cough, getting vaccinated for the flu, and staying home when sick.