Illness in Mille Lacs community

March 3, 2017

Mille Lacs Health System continues to see GI illness in both patients and staff. Influenza is also in the community. Visitors to the hospital, nursing home, and assisted living are still restricted, as they have been since Feb.22. Signs at every entrance have been warning people of the precautions and restrictions needed to prevent both from getting sick yourself or infecting others. Masks and gloves are provided at each entry.

The health system has activated a team of medical professionals and management to complete short and long-term planning regarding the outbreak, including daily monitoring of new onset GI symptoms among patients, residents, and employees. Employees are required to stay away from work until they are symptom-free for 24 hours.

The flu is an upper respiratory infection that causes sore throat, chills, body aches, runny nose, and coughing. The gastrointestinal (GI) virus circulating in the community causes diarrhea, vomiting, and nausea. Some people have tested positive for Norovirus, and all cases of GI illness have significantly dropped in the last week. Both of these illnesses, though, can lead to severe dehydration if you don’t drink enough fluids.

Both infectious illnesses are very contagious. Usually the body doesn’t come down with two infections at once, but it can get infected with one bug right after the other if the immune system is weakened. The GI virus that is predominant right now is very intense and if family members are in contact with the ill person, precautions should be taken.

Both illnesses can be managed by getting plenty of rest, taking over-the-counter pain relievers to reduce fever and aches, and avoiding close contact with others for the first few days. Drink plenty of fluids, and if you aren’t able to eat much solid food, make sure those fluids contain some salt and sugar, such as soup, juice or sports drinks, to help replace electrolytes. Be especially watchful of children and dehydration, especially if it’s difficult to get them to keep fluids down. Signs include: dry mouth, sleepiness, decreased urine output, and few or no tears. If you suspect someone is dehydrated and is not able to sip fluids, you may need to come to Urgent or Emergency Care.

If you are sick we ask that you refrain from visiting residents and patients at Mille Lacs Health System until your symptoms have been resolved for at least 24 hours. The health system is asking that no children visit at this time. When you are here we encourage you to practice good hand washing with soap and water for 20 seconds. This would include washing your hands at the start of your visit and at any time during your visit if needed. Please help protect those at MLHS by not visiting any resident or patient if you are having any symptoms of illness.

Good hand washing with soap and water is still the best defense against GI Illness. Cleaning thoroughly with a bleach and water solution is recommended by the Minnesota Department of Health. For influenza, sanitary hand foam or gel will work to help protect you, but nothing protects like a flu shot, which you can still receive at any one of the MLHS clinics.