Hospitals limit visitors to stop the spread of flu

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BISMARCK, N.D. - Another bad flu year is causing North Dakota hospitals to limit who comes through their doors.

"So what we are doing is restricting the visitors to immediate family only. So only the people who should be here visiting the patient are allowed,” said Dr. Supha Arthurs, an infectious disease specialist with CHI St. Alexius.

St Alexius in Bismarck became the latest to issue visitor restrictions, joining other hospitals around the region. Nationally, the flu vaccine isn't as effective this year, leading to more cases.

“It's about a third of the folks who get tested are coming back positive and it's still on the upswing. It's not really leveling off,” said Dr. Noe Mateo, an infectious disease specialist.

According to the North Dakota Department of Health, more than 2,500 cases have been reported this season. This is a low estimate of the true number since testing is not mandatory.

Across the state, 146 people have been hospitalized and 10 people, as of January 13, have died.

The department adds that it's hard to predict how long the season will run.

“It could be a couple of weeks, it could be up to a month or two. We hope it will be a couple weeks until they taper off. But influenza can be unpredictable, so it's good to take precautions,” said Epidemiologist Jill Baber.

Doctors are still recommending to get the flu vaccine. All of the hospitals have said that the restrictions will stay in place until the flu activity gets back to normal levels.