A woman in her 80s from southeastern Minnesota has died from flu complications, the Minnesota Department of Health reported Monday.
The H3-N2 influenza strain was confirmed in the woman. Sporadic outbreaks of the strain have occurred in long-term care facilities this fall and over the summer, health officials said.
Another woman in her 80s died earlier this month from flu complications, and health officials said both women had lived in long-term care facilities.
Neither were vaccinated, said Dr. Ruth Lynfield, the state epidemiologist. The H3-N2 strain is included in this year's influenza vaccine, and is a common type of flu that is especially hard on the elderly, she said.
"We've already now had two deaths and it's only October 18th," she said. "So we're a bit concerned when we see this amount of serious influenza activity so early on."
Kris Ehresmann, director of the health department's infectious disease division, said the elderly should also be vaccinated, but she said they don't respond as well to the vaccine as younger individuals.
It's especially important health care workers and infant caregivers get vaccinated because those groups can easily pass flu to vulnerable people, Lynfield said.
"They may not even realize that they're spreading infection," she said.
Currently about 70 percent of Minnesota health care workers get an annual flu vaccine.
Health officials said they haven't yet seen increased flu activity in Minnesota among the general population.