Like other healthcare facilities throughout Montana, St. Patrick Hospital has taken measures to protect staff, patients and visitors from the flu virus.

Infection Control Specialist Tammy Powers said the protections begin with hospital staff.

"All of our employees and providers are offered free influenza vaccinations and we have a high compliance rate," Powers said. "We keep careful track so that we have reduced possibilities of transmitting to patients."

Powers said this year's vaccine has not proven to be as effective as those in previous years.

"Because of this, we ask any of out healthcare workers that are ill to not come to the hospital," she said. "We want them to stay home until they are free from fever or any other flu symptoms for at least 48 hours."

Powers said the hospital is asking anyone who is sick to not come to visit friends and family at this time.

"Our flu-related admissions haven't been so high that we would institute visitor restrictions, because we'd like to keep the hospital open to family and friends. That could change, but we aren't implementing them currently. We offer liquid hand sanitizer and kleenex to visitors to help prevent contact with the virus."

Powers said as of Thursday, there was only one flu-related patient in the hospital. She expects the flu season to last through late March or early April and that getting the current flu vaccine is still the best protection.