Child Care, Long-Term Care Facilities Get Tough Against Flu Outbreak

DULUTH, Minn. – Long-term care facilities and child day cares are on alert to help prevent the spread of flu as the state of Minnesota has recently seen an explosion of influenza cases. It’s so bad health experts are describing this year’s flu season as severe and one of the worst in recent memory. One child has even died this season from the flu in Minnesota. FOX 21’s Dan Hanger reports on the latest advice from a St. Luke’s doctor, and how local care providers are working hard to prevent an outbreak.

For Cindy Fennessey, there’s a lot to watch out for when running New Horizons Children Center of Superior and the nearly 100 kids who enter her facility daily.

“It’s a big responsibility,” Fennessey said.

And that responsibility is at the max right now as Fennessey and her staff do everything they can to prevent a flu outbreak.

“Hand washing is very big here. A lot of staff here will generally complain about their chapped hands. Well, at least then they are doing their job,” Fennessey said with a smile.

And besides constantly wiping down toys and tables, Fennessey provides here staff with flu shots that she pays for to prevent any spread of the virus to the children they care for.

“We try and keep up on cleaning, cleaning, cleaning as much as possible. Granted, you can’t prevent everything, but we’ll try to do whatever we can to keep the kids healthy as well as ourselves,” Fennessey said.

Dr. Andrew Thompson at St. Luke’s Hospital in Duluth says it’s not too late to get a flu shot — even with the flu season at peak or close to it because he says your chances of getting the virus can last through April and even May.

“It would have been great to get it a month ago, but it would still be worth doing,” Thompson said.

And Thompson says if you do get the high fever, aches, chills and heavy fatigue, stay home.

“Gt some rest and stay away from other people. Don’t spread it. Don’t go to work and try to tough it out,” Thompson said.

Along with child care, long-term care facilities are also spraying things down and taking extra anti-flu precautions for the safety of clients.

“You look at all aspects of a person’s life and to become sick with the flu and especially in an elderly population, or compromised population, it can have devastating effects on them,” said Jean Pekkala, a registered nurse at Westview Services Adult Foster Care.

Pekkala even gets a little creative by stuffing bags of health-related products, like hand sanitizer, for each staff member.

“Just as an encouragement as people are starting to think about the flu season, and it’s kind of a reminder to, yup, continue to wash your hands and try to stay healthy,” Pekkala explained.

Meanwhile, back a New Horizons, they too are on a winning streak without a flu outbreak so far, and they’re of course hoping it stays that way.

“Knock on wood,” Fennessey said. “But then I just heard we’ve got a week before peak season and then we still have another 12 or 13 weeks, so it’s like oh my goodness that’s until the end of April.”

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