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Hospitals around the country are requiring their employees get seasonal flu vaccines to increase the number of health care workers protected against the bug.

Winona Health makes the vaccine available to its employees, who are "highly encouraged" to get the shot, said Sara Gabrick, vice president of patient care, but it does not require them.

The health care provider also plans to encourage but not require its workers to get the swine flu vaccine, expected to become available later this month.

State health officials said Thursday that Minnesota will soon receive is first batch of swine flu vaccinations - 28,000 doses in the form of a nasal spray - and health care workers will be offered the vaccines first.

While Winona Health encourages its workers to become vaccinated, other hospitals require it.

The Marshfield Clinic in Marshfield, Wis., the University of Iowa Hospital in Iowa City, Iowa, and the Nashville-based HCA hospital chain require employees receive the seasonal flu vaccine.

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For the first time, workers at UW Hospital and St. Mary's Hospital in Madison, Wis., must get seasonal flu shots this year or sign waivers saying they understand the risks of not doing so.

Seasonal flu kills about 36,000 people and puts 200,000 in the hospital each year, according to the national Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

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Swine flu could kill 30,000 to 90,000 people and lead to 1.8 million hospital admissions this year, a White House report said in August.

A Winona Health spokeswoman couldn't immediately say how many of its employees typically receive the seasonal flu vaccine.

Wisconsin State Journal's David Wahlberg contributed to this story.

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