The number of flu–related deaths in Minnesota has risen to four, nearly 600 more people have been hospitalized with the illness.
With so many people flocking to hospitals and clinics, they can easily become a breeding ground for the infection to spread.
To stop that spread, hospitals are taking extra precautions and implementing visitor restrictions.
At the sleepy eye medical center they have actually closed their doors to visitors, until further notice, to stop the virus from spreading through the hospital and community at large. About 15 miles east at the New Ulm medical center visitors are still allowed at the hospital but there are restrictions.
New Ulm Medical Center Director Dr. Joan Krikava says, "Each patient can only have 2 visitors at any one given time, and we are asking for immediate family only, and of course, I you are sick you shouldn't visit anyone at the hospital."
Krikava says the hospital and clinic reported 50 cases of influenza in December, and now they've stopped testing people, and started assuming if you have the symptoms, you have the flu.
Krikava says "In the clinic we have been seeing 59–100 patients more a day, which for a clinic our size is a huge increase, our emergency and hospitalization numbers are up as well."
Why are we seeing so much flu this year? Krikava says she thinks a mild past couple flu seasons have caused people to let their guard down when it comes to flu shots.
Krikava says, "In bad flu years, that gets the attention of everybody."
She says the elderly and chronically ill get their flu shots faithfully, the otherwise healthy public, not so much.
Krikava says "It's years like this that you wish that they would because its really that immunity of large populations that protects everybody and when you have that large percentage of healthy public and the school age public not getting it we are just going to see more flu and unfortunately it spills over to the more vulnerable population."
Krikava says the best thing you can do is get a flu shot.
Krikava says "And it's not to late."
The Madelia Community Hospital and Clinic is also implementing some visitor restrictions.