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Hennepin Co. Paramedics Protect Themselves From Flu

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) -- Just like a majority of Minnesotans, Hennepin County paramedics are also taking extra precautions to protect their employees from the flu.

"Paramedics don't like being sick any more than a normal person does," said Kyle Koelln, who is responsible for covering more than 50 cities in Hennepin County.

While less than 1 percent of his calls are for flu patients, Koelln isn't taking any chances.

They follow universal safety standards, but with the early flu season and more people getting sicker with this particular bug, they are taking an extra step: using three different kinds of face masks.

The first one, a blue mask, is called a droplet isolation mask.

"We mask a patient if they're showing flu-like symptoms so they're not spreading droplets to be spread anywhere else," Koelln said.

When things get serious, they use mask that have built-in eye protection, or masks that fit firmly around the face.

The flu virus can stay on surfaces up to eight hours, which is enough time to contaminate things for the next patient. EMS crews wipe everything down before and after contact.

Across the border, police officers in Green Bay, Wis. are also trying to avoid getting the flu. They carry masks in their squad cars.

"When you're running a 24-hour, seven day a week operation and one drops out … over 80 percent of our budget is people, you got to take care of them," said Randy Schultz with Brown County Sheriff's Department.

Both Minneapolis and St. Paul police are following their typical safety procedures. Minneapolis Fire Department crews are doing the same, but they are taking things seriously. A few years ago, a firefighter died from the flu.

Sonya Goins, Producer
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