Sioux City Hospitals Require Masks to Fight Flu

VNA member of 13 years, Mary Knight, of Solon fills up syringes during a flu vaccination clinic at Wickham Elementary School in Coralville on Wednesday, October 3, 2012. The clinics are widely available and The Visiting Nurses Association, accepts Medicare, Blue Cross, and other insurance and also provides vaccinations for children without a doctor's order. (Kyle Grillot/The Gazette-KCRG)

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By Ben Hoppenworth

SIOUX CITY, Iowa (AP) - Sioux City hospitals are requiring health care workers who haven't received a flu shot to wear masks when consulting with patients.

Mercy Medical Center Sioux City and UnityPoint Health-St. Luke's want anyone who comes in contact with patients to be immunized or wear a mask if they opt out for medical or religious reasons. The hospitals' policies aren't mandated by the state.

The Sioux City Journal reports the state Department of Public Health has upgraded influenza activity in Iowa from regional to widespread. Officials have confirmed more than 500 cases of the virus.

Hospital officials say catching the flu while being hospitalized with another medical condition can be dangerous. It could lead to longer hospital stays or cause death.

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