By Jeff Wagner

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Allina Health announced Monday it will temporarily impose visitor restrictions in its hospitals due to influenza.

As part of its restrictions, Allina has released the following guidelines: children under the age of 5 are asked not to visit patients; visitors to mom/baby and birth center units will be screened for wellness before entrance; and sick visitors are asked to refrain from coming to the hospital. Allina says exceptions may be made to accommodate for a patient’s condition.

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At Allina Health hospitals like Abbott Northwestern, there’s been an uptick of patients walking through the door feeling downright sick.

“Week over week, two weeks in a row where we’ve had a 30 percent increase in our flu-positive tests and that is one of our early indicators,” said Marsha Studer, director of Infection Prevention Operations.

Indicators that it’s time to start visitor restrictions. Another is the Minnesota Dept. of Health declaring the flu as “widespread,” which means it’s everywhere and easy to catch, according to Studer.

Children under five years old asked not to visit Allina facilities, those visiting the birth center must be screened, and more rules.

“If they’re ill, please defer from coming to our hospital. But if you’re seeking care at our hospital or clinics and they are ill, then we ask them to mask and use good hand hygiene,” she said.

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Masks, hand sanitizer and tissues are available near the door at Allina facilities.

Last flu season, the restrictions started almost a month earlier as the virus not only spread sooner but was more rampant.

So far this season, the latest numbers show 218 patients have been hospitalized with the flu, far off the previous year’s pace. But a later winter spike remains possible.

“Even if it’s late we can still get a peak and sometimes we get a second peak, and so it might last as far as March or April,” Studer said.

The restrictions will begin Jan. 22 and will be implemented at all Allina Health hospitals.

The Minnesota Department of Health says influenza in the state is widespread.

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For more information, visit Allina’s website, or visit the Department of Health’s website.

Jeff Wagner