The state health department set up a special hotline for parents to call with questions about the flu. The H-1 strain has now killed a total of three children in Minnesota -- two deaths were announced yesterday and one was discovered last week.
None of the cases is connected, but none of the children had been vaccinated. While the flu is rarely deadly in children, that has not calmed the fears of anxious parents worried about their kids.
Patsy Stinchfield, director of infectious disease at Children's Hospitals and Clinics of Minnesota, has been monitoring the call volume on the statewide hotline set up at St. Paul-Ramsey County Public Health.
Three kids that died from the flu was a good motivator.Aaron Slavik, parent
"Within the first half-hour there were almost 300 calls. They had eight lines being staffed continually. By about 11 a.m., that clinic had already scheduled over 1,000 people to come on Saturday," Stinchfield said.
The clinic was scheduled to go from 9 a.m. to noon tomorrow. It was extended until 3 p.m., and now, Stinchfield says, the clinic is full. But there are other options available.
The Minnesota Visiting Nurse Agency has set up flu clinics at 20 Cub Foods stores across Minnesota.
Aaron Slavik brought his 5-year-old son, Johnathan, to get a shot at the store in Brooklyn Park.
"Three kids that died from the flu was a good motivator," Slavik said.
Normally he's not big on flu shots,"but with my son being in pre-school, we wanted him protected," Slavik said. "Between that and Sunday school, we want to make sure we're safe."
That's what many parents are saying. Some are also saying they wish they'd gotten their children vaccinated sooner. Mary Carroll, a registered nurse who oversees the flu shot program for the Minnesota Visiting Nurse Agency says the agency has been swamped with calls. Parents are asking about flu symptoms and scheduling vaccinations.
"So we ramped up our clinics so that we're running daily clinics from 2 p.m. to 6 p.m. That's in response to parents who are very anxious about ensuring that their kids are able to get a flu vaccination as quick as possible," Carroll said.
While some families may run into obstacles scheduling flu shots this weekend, health officials are asking parents to be patient -- and reminding them that there is plenty of vaccine available.