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Meeker Memorial in Litchfield implements visitor restrictions

LITCHFIELD — Meeker Memorial Hospital and Clinics has implemented visitor restrictions to prevent the spread of respiratory illnesses and keep patients safe.

The restrictions, announced Friday, were prompted by a rise in cases of respiratory syncytial virus, or RSV, which mainly affects children, and influenza.

Visitor restrictions at the Litchfield hospital are in effect until further notice. It is recommended that no children visit hospital patients. No one under 18 is allowed to visit the Birth Center at this time, with the exception of siblings.

Anyone with symptoms such as a scratchy throat, fever, cough or body aches is required to wear a mask to visit patients. All visitors must wash their hands or use hand sanitizer prior to and after visitation. Kiosks with masks and hand sanitizer are located in the center of the lobby and in the hall on the third floor between the inpatient and behavioral health units.

Area residents are encouraged to follow prevention strategies: receive annual influenza vaccination, hand washing with soap and water, covering your cough, and staying home when sick.

Birth Center restrictions are in place to reduce the spread of RSV and have been expanded to all patient care areas in the hospital, effective immediately due to the prevalence of flu.

The restrictions help protect patients and others who are most susceptible to contracting respiratory illness and influenza, said Kari Olson, infection control nurse.

"We realize this may cause inconvenience for some people, but we are taking this step in the best interest of the health of our patients, visitors and staff members," she said in a news release.

The Minnesota Health Department reported Thursday that influenza is now considered widespread across the state. According to the Health Department, there were 172 flu-related hospitalizations last week. At outpatient clinics that participate in the state influenza surveillance program, 3.4 percent of patients seen last week had influenza-like illnesses.