Influenza remains widespread in Minnesota, with a spike in hospitalizations reported during the week that ended Dec. 29, state health officials said.
New preliminary statistics released by the Minnesota Department of Health on Thursday show there were 226 people hospitalized with laboratory-confirmed influenza. An additional two deaths were reported, bringing total deaths for the season to four.
"It certainly is a very vigorous influenza year," state epidemiologist Dr. Ruth Lynfield said. "When we look at the breakdown of the people who are hospitalized, though, it does appear to be what we do see during an influenza season. In other words, the largest number of folks who are being hospitalized who have severe influenza are 65 or older."
However, healthy people can also develop serious conditions in some cases, she said. "There also is the possibility for a bacterial infection to occur, either at the same time influenza is happening or shortly thereafter," Lynfield said.
Officials say it isn't too late to get the flu vaccine.
The numbers of hospitalizations and outbreaks reported in the past week could go up as health officials continue analyzing the data, Lynfield said. A total of 578 hospitalizations have been reported for the season.
Hospitals in the Twin Cities area have reported high demand for services because of flu cases, and many hospitals are at or near capacity.
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