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A sign on the door is shown Monday at Crossroads Care Center in Worthington

Flu on rise locally

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news Worthington, 56187
Worthington Minnesota 300 11th Street / P.O. Box 639 56187

WORTHINGTON -- High fevers with body temperatures ranging from 102- to 105 degrees have been the norm for patients visiting Worthington clinics and the hospital in recent days as the influenza outbreak continues to spread across the state and the nation.

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In Worthington, Crossroads Care Center has had a posted sign on all of its entrances since Jan. 4, encouraging visitors to stay away.

"We've had positive cultures done and we do have Influenza A," said registered nurse Terry Hopkins, the resident care coordinator at Crossroads.

More than a dozen residents of the senior care facility have exhibited flu symptoms including elevated temperature, respiratory congestion, coughing, weakness, body aches and headaches, she added. As of yet, none of the residents at Crossroads has had to be hospitalized.

Hopkins said while she is hopeful the nursing facility is "on the downward side" of the flu outbreak, she knows there is still a lengthy flu season ahead and the facility could always be exposed to a different strain.

After the first signs of the flu were noticed at Crossroads, Hopkins said doses of Tamiflu were brought in to administer to residents. The vaccine can be given to those showing early symptoms of the flu or those exposed to people with the flu.

"The other thing we do in the facility is we don't have any communal activities," Hopkins said. "Residents eat in their room, and there are no group activities."

At South Shore Care Center, Director of Nursing Linda Unger said staff are also keeping residents in their own units, even though there have not been any cases of the flu in the facility.

Local assisted living facilities, including Ecumen/The Meadows of Worthington and Golden Horizons, have signs posted on their entrances encouraging people who are sick to stay away.

Ecumen/The Meadows interim housing manager Nancy Garvin said the flu has been kept at bay, thus far, in the senior housing facility.

"We've been fortunate," Garvin said. "We haven't had anyone hospitalized with influenza.

"We are encouraging staff to stay home if they're ill," she added. "As of today, we haven't had to close our doors down to visitors."

With hand sanitizer available "all over" in The Meadows, Garvin said there is also care being taken with group activities, as all participants are encouraged to wash their hands before joining in gatherings.

Residents of The Meadows were given the option of getting a flu shot last fall, and Garvin said a majority of them took advantage of the offer, as did many of the staff people.

Across the road from The Meadows, Golden Horizons RN administrator Terri Janssen said she was going to post a notice on the facility's doors on Monday encouraging visitors to stay away if they are feeling ill.

"We encourage the residents not to go out, but you can't control all of that," Janssen said.

Cindy Frederickson, public health nurse with Nobles County Community Services, said the Minnesota Department of Health still shows a widespread flu outbreak in the state. The hardest hit are generally the elderly, people with chronic illness and children.

"Although influenza is occurring in all age groups, the elderly represent the greatest proportion of influenza-related hospitalizations or death," Frederickson read from MDH information she received.

As the number of flu cases continues to rise, more people are seeking the flu vaccine. There has not been any reported shortage of the vaccine locally, and Frederickson said the public health office still has vaccine available. People who are uninsured or have a high deductible on their health insurance can access a flu shot from the public health department by calling 295-5360 to schedule an appointment.

Jennifer Weg, chief nursing officer at Sanford Worthington Medical Center, said testing for the influenza has increased significantly in the last three weeks. Between the Sanford hospital and clinic, there have been upward of 20 tests given per day, with a quarter of those tests coming back positive for influenza A.

"We have had some Influenza B and they're the much younger children," Weg said. "We haven't had a lot of hospitalizations, but (those admitted have been the very elderly or the very young)."

Weg said Sanford was busy over the weekend with numerous patients coming in with flu-like symptoms, but fewer had come in Monday. Still, there's no sign the influenza season has peaked.

"It's still unpredictable," she said.

Weg encourages people who are feeling ill to get plenty of rest and drink fluids, take Tylenol for discomfort and stay home, away from others.

"It's not unusual for people with influenza to lose their appetite and not want to eat," added Gwen Post, Sanford ER nurse manager of critical care services. "Make sure they have liquids."

Jessica Hohenstein, nurse manager at Avera Worthington Specialty Clinic, said the facility had seen "good numbers" of both Influenza A and B. During the last week of December, 30 tests were issued for influenza. Five of those were positive for Influenza A and four were positive for Influenza B. During the first week of January, 65 tests were performed at the clinic, with six showing positive for Influenza A and 10 positive for Influenza B.

"I think the numbers are continuing to hold steady," Hohenstein said. "We are seeing an increase in the number of people coming in now and getting the flu shot."

Avera started off the flu season with 3,000 doses of flu vaccine, and with 1,000 of those doses going to the local public school district, all of their doses were administered. Still, Hohenstein said flu vaccine is being obtained from Avera in Sioux Falls, S.D., and doses remain available for anyone wanting to get either the flu shot or flu mist. The mist is offered to those between the ages of 2 and 49.

Hohenstein stressed the importance of hand washing to stop the spread of the influenza.

Daily Globe Reporter Julie Buntjer may be reached at 376-7330.

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