Four more deaths have been linked to the flu in Minnesota, but the number of schools reporting outbreaks dropped considerably in the past week, health officials said Wednesday.
Three deaths were linked to H1N1 during the week ending Oct. 31, while one death was linked to an unspecified flu-like illness, officials said. The new deaths bring the total to 15 deaths from H1N1 virus.
The three people with H1N1 who died were all adults who had underlying medical conditions. They were from Hennepin, Fillmore and Winona counties.
At the same time, there were signs last week that flu cases might have started to decline.
According to weekly statistics released by the Minnesota Department of Health, visits to outpatient clinics for flu-like illness were down, and the number of schools reporting flu outbreaks dropped from 288 two weeks ago to 137 last week.
John Stine, assistant commissioner for health protection, said it isn't yet clear whether flu cases in the state have peaked. "We don't know that right now. We would have to wait for additional weeks of data," he said.
Dr. Ruth Lynfield, state epidemiologist, said it usually takes at least two weeks of data to know if flu cases are on the decline. Also, flu cases seem to be on the decline in the Twin Cities area while other parts of Minnesota are seeing an increase, she said.
State official also reported two outbreaks at nursing care facilities, which are the first recorded outbreaks in the state.