Cases of H1N1 influenza continue to decrease in Minnesota schools over the past week, even while five more deaths from the illness were confirmed, according to the Minnesota Department of Health.
The five deaths brings the total number of confirmed cases to 26 since the outbreak began in April. Two additional Minnesota deaths are believed to be associated with H1N1.
All of the latest fatal cases were in adults with underlying medical conditions who ranged in age from 20 to 79, state epidemiologist Ruth Lynfield said.
The health department said only nine schools reported outbreaks of influenza-like illness last week, which is down from 40 schools the previous week.
"We continue to have a number of indicators that show us that we may be coming down in terms of influenza activity," Lynfield said.
But health officials said that even if H1N1 cases continue to go down in the state, officials might soon see seasonal influenza surface.
"That's why it's really important that people don't let down their guard," Lynfield said. "I urge people to continue to be cautious."
Eight outpatient clinics said just under 4 percent of patients had flu-like symptoms, which was a slight increase over the previous week. But the number of patients hospitalized with influenza dropped by more than half from the previous week.
Last week there were two outbreaks due to influenza reported from long-term care facilities.
Fewer Minnesotans are calling the state's flu hotline. About 22,000 calls have been received on the flu line since it opened last month, said Terri Hyduke, CEO of the Children's Physician Network.
Half of the calls came in during the first week, and antivirals have been prescribed to about 7 percent of callers who were at high-risk for complications and were complaining of flu-like symptoms.