Flu and masks

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Healthcare systems across the country have been battling COVID-19 for nearly two years. Face coverings are proven to be one one of the most important tools in keeping this virus at bay. Cloth masks are a popular infection control method worldwide, but they are a new prevention strategy in American life. Although they have become controversial, it is undeniable they slow the spread of COVID-19 and the flu. The flu and masks should be a common association.

Please take a few minutes to watch this PBS program on the importance of masks.

The impact

It seems like every year, thousands of people contract the dreaded flu. This terrible illness has become a part of our seasonal culture. The Centers for Disease Control & Prevention estimated that 28,000 people died from influenza from 2018 to 2019 in the United States. From 2017 to 2018, an estimated 52,000 people died in our country alone. Every year thousands meet an untimely death from this virus. Data trends and studies on the effectiveness of masks have some wondering if they should be worn more often.

Masks aren’t about necessarily protecting ourselves. They are about protecting others from contaminated droplets. Wearing a mask during the flu season might be the best way to protect our communities.

Infection prevention

Cheryl Houselog is Tri-County Health Care’s infection preventionist. She has the duty of stopping the spread of contagions. For the last two years, she has worked non-stop to provide safe working environments for the staff and patients of Tri-County Health Care. When asked what she felt was the best way to prevent the spread of the flu, she quickly stated the importance of respiratory hygiene. To her, a cloth mask is one of the most important barriers between you and sickness. Cheryl doesn’t think you need to constantly wear a mask but choosing to wear one in certain situations makes sense. When you plan to be around several different people, wearing a mask, especially during the flu season, can be a very wise decision.

“The fact that we did not see a lot of colds or influenza last year indicates that masking helps prevent transmission of many respiratory diseases,” – Cheryl Houselog

Masking is more important than ever! They may not be convenient or fashionable, but they can save lives. Data from the Influenza Surveillance Network has been included below. If you compare rates of influenza in the State of Minnesota, it is clear that mitigation efforts were having a strong impact on the spread of the flu and other respiratory illnesses. This winter, make sure you’re protected from the flu by wearing your masks and getting your flu shot.

Flu and Masks statistics.


Fight the flu!

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Necessary prevention

“I never get the flu shot.” How many times have you heard that? Avoiding this crucial vaccination seems to be a point of pride for some people. It shouldn’t be a proud choice to leave yourself vulnerable to illness during a pandemic. This year, help yourself, your family, and the ailing healthcare systems across the nation. Join us and fight the flu!

Every year the flu does immense damage to the population, resulting in many hospitalizations. Over the years, the flu has become another obstacle we deal with, but we can’t take the risk this year. With beds filling rapidly, hospitals and clinics may not have the resources to stave off the flu effectively. Help them fight back and get the jab.

Do it for you too!

There are many reasons to get the flu shot aside from lending a hand to nurses, doctors and other medical staff. Here are our top three:

  1. Healthy holidays

Getting sick on Christmas or Thanksgiving is pretty crumby. We’ve all experienced that woeful Thanksgiving where the rest of the family enjoys a delicious dinner while you struggle to keep down warm soup. Do yourself a favor and don’t let the flu stifle your plans to enjoy the holidays.

  1. Preserve time off

Wouldn’t you like to enjoy a day off doing something you love? Having to use up all of your vacation days battling the flu is no fun. Don’t let the flu dictate your days off, miss work for something fun and fight the flu.

  1. Do it for the immunocompromised

Fight the flu! Don't let the flu stifle our COVID-19 treatments.Some people can’t get the vaccine due to medical complications and allergies. We can help them by reducing the amount of illness in the population. Remember them when offered the flu shot at your next appointment.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have released updated information regarding this year’s flu season. Visit their website for more details.

Upcoming flu shot clinics

Tri-County Health Care will be hosting several flu shot clinics during September and October. Clinics will be available in Wadena, Bertha, Henning, Ottertail and Sebeka.

Wadena              218-631-3510

Saturday              Oct. 2                   7-12 p.m.            all ages

Saturday              Oct. 16                 7-12 p.m.            all ages

Bertha                  218-924-2250

Wednesday         Sept. 29               7-4:15 p.m.        65+ day

Wednesday         Oct. 13                 7-4:15 p.m.         all ages

Henning              218-583-2953

Wednesday         Oct. 20                 8-4:15 p.m.         all ages

Ottertail               218-367-6262

Tuesday               Oct. 26                 8-4:15 p.m.         all ages

Sebeka                 218-837-5333

Wednesday         Oct. 6                   8-4:15 p.m.         all ages

Tri-County Health Care offers a significant discount for individuals paying at the time of the flu shot clinic. Medicare Advantage Plans, Humana, Medicare, Medicaid and many other commercial insurances are accepted. Please confirm with your insurance company before the clinic. Pre-registration is strongly encouraged, but walk-in appointments are available.


Flu Season is Back

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As temperatures grow colder, the flu season is raging back. Fighting the COVID-19 pandemic and battling the influenza season will place an excessive strain on the health care industry. That is why medical professionals urge everyone to receive their flu shot this year.

Sebeka Clinic fights the flu

On Oct. 13, Janice Hiedeman went to the Sebeka Clinic to get her flu shot. She used this opportunity to safeguard her health while indirectly helping others. From the start, she experienced an environment where her health was a top priority. That is because the Sebeka Clinic, like all Tri-County Health Care locations, has employed measures to stop the spread of COVID-19 All patients entered through the front and exited through the back to prevent face to face contact. Signage organized patients and staff within the building. The message of social distancing was always evident.

“I really liked that everyone was very professional and friendly,” said Janice when asked about her appointment. The pandemic has made receiving care a lot different, but many of the new changes made Janice’s appointment easy and anxiety-free.

Janice was impressed with the speed of the process. Within 10 minutes, she was admitted, received her shot and was on her way. Janice doesn’t care for waiting in the lobby so she was relieved. She commented that receiving the shot was painless.

On the day Janice visited the Sebeka Clinic, 150 people got their flu shot.

Getting a flu shot is important

Everyone 6 months or older should receive a flu shot. Compromised individuals and adults over 65 are at an even higher risk.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, more than 39 million people were affected by the flu from Oct. 1, 2019, through Apr. 4, 2020. A flu vaccine will help reduce the burden on our health care systems. The illness reduction allows health care staff to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic more efficiently.

To schedule your flu shot, please call 218-631-3510.

Flu Shot Flu season influenza Tri-County Health Care Sebeka Clinic COVID-19 Coronavirus


COVID-19 FAQ: How to Keep Schools Open

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Many months have passed since the start of the coronavirus pandemic in the United States. However, there are still unknowns surrounding COVID-19 and what its effect will be moving forward. Tri-County Health Care, Wadena-Deer Creek Schools and Sourcewell hosted a community town hall to answer questions from the public. Topics addressed included how influenza differs from COVID-19 and how to keep schools open this year.

Tri-County Health Care COVID-19 Coronavirus Schools Reopening Germs Hand Hygiene Masks

What are the differences between COVID-19 and influenza?

Ben Hess, M.D.: The main symptoms of COVID-19 and influenza are similar. Nobody can look at a patient and tell if they have one or the other. That is why we must do testing to sort through it and find an answer. We have quite a few treatments that are effective for the flu.

The main difference is that COVID-19 is more dangerous than the flu. If you look at the statistics, the flu kills around 30,000 Americans every year. We have already lost 180,000 to COVID-19.

How can people prepare for the flu season? Will this flu season be different this year?

Dr. Hess: Both the flu and COVID-19 are spread through droplets. That means the measures people are taking to protect themselves from COVID-19 will be effective at limiting the spread of the flu. These mitigation efforts include social distancing, wearing a mask and practicing good hand hygiene.

Another way to prepare is to get the annual flu shot. It will be important because if a patient is showing symptoms and has had the flu vaccination, it will be easier for the provider to determine the illness. If a patient presents with a fever, muscle aches, runny nose and sore throat and have had a flu shot, the suspicion that it’s COVID-19 is much higher.

In a typical year, I recommend getting the flu shot in October or November for this region. However, with COVID-19 active in the community, it’s more important to get it sooner.

What will school look like this year?

Wadena-Deer Creek School District Superintendent Lee Westrum: We plan to keep the schools open and students in the classroom, but we know we will likely have to shift between the three learning formats described below, depending on the COVID-19 data in our community. We’re also offering distance learning as an option for any family who wishes to choose a more consistent schedule as part of a full-time, at-home learning model.

When students are in school, we will follow the Minnesota Department of Health guidelines to mitigate risks associated with the spread of COVID-19. Our safety protocols include:

  • Physical distancing of individuals in classrooms and common areas, and visual reminders for physical distancing
  • Face coverings for all staff and students in our buildings
  • Handwashing with soap and/or hand sanitizer in each classroom
  • Limited sharing of supplies.
  • Increased daily and weekly enhanced cleaning and disinfecting
  • Increased circulation of outside air into buildings due to our advanced HVAC system

What happens to the learning model if there is a surge of COVID-19 cases in the area?

Lee Westrum: The three learning models in our safe learning plan include in-person learning, hybrid learning and distance learning. These three learning formats may shift depending on COVID-19 data in our community. The state of Minnesota has put together a system to help guide schools about what learning model to use. This system is based on the number of positive COVID-19 tests per 10,000 people in the county over a two-week period. Our district plans to discuss shifting models at these positive case levels:

  • 10 positive cases per 10,000: Students in grades 7-12 would shift to hybrid learning. Elementary students would remain in school.
  • 20 positive cases per 10,000: All students shift to hybrid learning.
  • 30 positive cases per 10,000: Students in grades 7-12 shift to distance learning. Elementary remains with hybrid learning.
  • 50 positive cases: All students shift to distance learning.

How can the community help keep our schools open with in-person learning this year?

Lee Westrum: The main factor in keeping our students in school is by keeping our community COVID-19 infection rates low. We all agree we want our kids in school. It’s important for our parents and community members to be partners with the school on this. That means committing to mitigation efforts at home and in the community. By making this commitment, it will allow us to keep our infection rates low and help us achieve our goal of providing an excellent education while maintaining a safe environment for everyone.

Is it still important to flatten the curve?

Joel Beiswenger, President and CEO: The original concept of flattening the curve was to make sure health care systems didn’t get overrun with the virus. The efforts allowed time for training on how best to care for patients and to acquire personal protective equipment. Now, it’s important to flatten the curve to manage community spread and allow our schools to maintain in-person learning. It’s the same concept with a different perspective on it.

Dr. Hess: When you’re dealing with a virus like this, it has the potential for exponential growth. It only takes a few cases to turn into hundreds or thousands. We’re always flattening the curve, but now we’re focused on doing it to avoid a large-scale shutdown. It’s how we keep our schools and businesses open this year.

Tri-County Health Care COVID-19 Coronavirus Hand Hygiene Schools Reopening Social Distancing Face Masks