The Minnesota Department of Health has seen a large enough increase in cases of influenza to warrant a designation of a "widespread" outbreak instead of the previous "regional" designation. At the end of February there was a 64 percent increase in hospitalizations over the previous week. Although those hospitalizations are way down from last year (245 now vs. 4,153 last year), the recent spike was a cause for concern, and the reason the restrictions have been put in effect.

According to the report in the Faribault Daily News, “widespread doesn’t refer to the intensity of outbreak but the geometry,” That's according to Frank Rhame, an infectious disease specialist with Allina Health.

Visitor restrictions at District One went into place Wednesday. Children younger than 5 and visitors who are ill are asked not to visit patients, while people with a fever and cough are asked to wear a mask when in the buildings. Exceptions can be made in extenuating circumstances.

As soon as the Minnesota Department of Health removes the "widespread" designation, the restrictions will be lifted.

Jupiterimages