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Sanford Bemidji Medical Center restricting visitors

BEMIDJI – Sanford Bemidji Medical Center is now restricting visitors to protect the health of its patients and staff.

The hospital announced the restrictions Monday with the goal of limiting the spread of influenza and other illnesses.

A press release from the hospital outlines the restrictions as followed:

- Visitors are limited to immediate family members only, including a spouse or significant other; parent or grandparent; and siblings over 14 years of age who are well.

- Only two visitors per patient at a time.

- No one who is ill (has symptoms of influenza including fever or chills, muscle or body aches, sore throat, cough, stuffy nose, headache and fatigue) will be permitted to visit.

These restrictions apply to all patients in all areas of the hospitals and are effective until further notice.

At this time Sanford Bagley Medical Center does not have visitor restrictions.

Minnesota has experienced an early start to the influenza season and is now seeing vigorous, widespread activity, Sanford stated in the release. Hospitals and other health care organizations across the state are reporting significant increases in patients testing positive for influenza and others presenting in clinics, urgent care settings and emergency departments with flu-like symptoms. Volumes at some locations have exceeded those experienced during the height of the H1N1 outbreak in 2009.

Because people who are at high risk for influenza complications may not have the best immune response to the vaccine, it is important that those around them are vaccinated, Sanford said. The Minnesota Department of Health and the Center for Disease Control recommend that everyone 6 months of age and older get vaccinated for influenza, but especially those at high risk for complications from influenza.

Last Friday, Sanford reported its Bemidji hospital had had 25 confirmed cases of Influenza A since the beginning of the season, with 13 in the previous week.

Overall, Minnesota has had 27 flu-related deaths so far this flu season, including 23 in the first week of 2013.

The flu is widespread in 47 states, and this year’s strain tends to make people sicker, according to national health officials.

People who are sick with flu symptoms are advised to stay home from work or school to help stop further spread of the outbreak.