Minnesota confirms 23 flu deaths in past week - KMSP-TV

Minnesota confirms 23 flu deaths in past week, 27 for season

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Green line on graph shows the severity of the 2012-13 flu season in Minnesota compared to previous years Green line on graph shows the severity of the 2012-13 flu season in Minnesota compared to previous years
ST. PAUL, Minn. (KMSP) -

The Minnesota Department of Health is reporting 23 flu-related deaths in the past week in Minnesota, raising the state's total number of flu deaths to 27 this season.

Minnesota hospitals have reported 1,121 hospitalizations for flu-like illness, including 401 hospitalizations in the week ending Jan 5 -- a similar number to the peak of the 2009-10 flu pandemic.

"We are clearly at a high level of influenza activity in the state," said Minnesota Health Commissioner Dr. Edward Ehlinger. "But it's important to keep this year in perspective: What is occurring has happened before. This is what influenza looks like, this is what it can do. That's why we stress every year the importance of prevention measures, such as getting a flu shot, covering your cough, washing your hands and staying home if you are ill. We never know at the beginning of a flu season what it's going to look like."

THE NUMBERS: FLU IN MINNESOTA

1,121 hospitalized
62 percent over age 65
15 percent under age 25

This is in contrast to the 2009 flu pandemic when 12 percent of hospitalizations were patients 65 and older and 61 percent were patients under 25.

23 of 27 flu deaths in people 65 or older

HOSPITALS TAKING PRECAUTIONS

The outbreak has forced some hospitals to implement visitor restrictions to prevent the spread of flu. 15 hospitals in south central Minnesota are agreeing to visitor restrictions. At Fairview Ridges in Burnsville, Minn., they've been so full they've had to turn patients away and send them to other intensive care units in the city.

"You really don't need to go into the clinic, you don't need to go to urgent care or a doctor, and quite honestly you're spreading it around while you do that," said Dr. Greg Kutcher of Mayo Health System. "For those folks, we'd actually prefer you stay at home."

FLU OUTBREAKS AT SCHOOLS, LONG-TERM CARE

Five schools and 28 long-term care facilities reported confirmed flu outbreaks in the past week. Since the start of the season, 138 outbreaks of influenza have been reported in schools and 59 in long-term care facilities.

FLU SHOT SUPPLY

Doctors say there is "zero supply concern" with flu shots in Minnesota, although the Minnesota Department of Health said Wednesday that some clinics are running out of privately-purchased vaccines and are struggling to find additional doses in the private sector. Any clinic having difficulty acquiring more vaccines is urged to borrow MnVFC flu vaccines for children.

So far, 91 percent of the flu cases match a strain in the vaccine. It's not too late to get a flu shot, and it's still highly recommend for the very young, the very old and those with compromised immune systems.

AVOID SPREADING OR CATCHING THE FLU

- Do your best to stay healthy. Get plenty of rest, physical activity and healthy eating.

- Stay home from school or work if you have a respiratory infection. Avoid exposing yourself to others who are sick with flu-like illness.

- Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue whenever you cough or sneeze, then throw the tissue away. If you don't have a tissue, cough or sneeze into your sleeve.

- Clean surfaces you touch frequently, such as doorknobs, water faucets, refrigerator handles and telephones.

- Wash your hands often with soap and water or with an alcohol-based hand sanitizer when soap and water are not available.

FLU SYMPTOMS

The symptoms of influenza tend to come on suddenly. They can include:

- Sore throat
- Coughing
- Fever
- Headache
- Muscle aches
- Fatigue

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