Communities hit hard by influenza last season are working to prevent a repeat as flu activity rises.
Ortonville, Minnesota was one of many cities with high flu numbers around a year ago. Influenza hospitalized more than 3,000 people in Minnesota last season. That was more than five times higher than the prior year.
According to the state’s health department, Minnesota is showing a regional geographic spread of influenza this season. But there’s reason for optimism in Ortonville, so far.
Over the past month, there has only been one case of influenza diagnosed at Ortonville Area Health Services. Workers hope to keep it that way.
"Hoping for a better season than last year, definitely," Infection Preventionist Nicole Lovgren said.
During last flu season, there was so much influenza in the community, administrators asked visitors to stay away from the health facility.
It has ramped up efforts this year aimed at encouraging workers to get the flu shot. Administrator Richard Ash says more than 95 percent of employees have done so. The hospital has also set up a program to monitor hand hygiene.
Ash says workers take precautions every year, and last year reminded everyone why.
"They really take every effort and every opportunity to do the best they can," Ash said.
Workers at the health care facility are also doing what they can to educate the public.
"Having nursing be the front line, educating the family members, you know, cover your cough, don't visit if you're sick. Your hands are your number one means of transmitting," Lovgren said.
Lovgren also releases information to the community when flu activity is on the rise. It has been in Minnesota according to its health department. In Ortonville, just 12 patients have been tested this past month with almost all those coming back negative.