Flu season in Minn. has peaked; more deaths reported

Flu vaccine
Medical assistant Lim Ros administers a flu vaccine at Central Pediatrics in St. Paul, Minn. in a file photo. The worst of the 2012-2013 flu season in Minnesota is likely over, Minnesota health officials said Thursday, Jan. 31, 2013.
MPR File Photo/Nikki Tundel

The worst of the flu season in Minnesota is likely over, Minnesota health officials said Thursday.

With the number of hospitalizations and outbreaks down for the third week in a row, the illness has peaked, said Kris Ehresmann, director of Infectious Disease Epidemiology at the Health Department.

"We're glad to see that things are slowing down," she said.

The state saw 135 hospitalizations in the week that ended Jan. 26, compared with 628 just three weeks before. There were 36 outbreaks reported at schools, compared to 112 last week, and there were eight outbreaks at nursing homes, compared to 48 two weeks ago.

One statistic — deaths — was up, however. The Minnesota Department of Health confirmed 36 deaths in the week that ended Jan. 26, but Ehresmann said some of those occurred earlier.

"We have to confirm and ensure that it really was an influenza-related death, and so sometimes it takes a little bit longer," she said.

The majority of the deaths confirmed in the past week were individuals age 65 or older. There have been 112 total deaths during this flu season, and 2,367 hospitalizations.

Ehresmann said it's possible the state could see a second peak in influenza activity, as it did during the H1N1 pandemic of 2009, but she said it's unlikely.

"That is very unusual, so we're hoping that because we're seeing a slowdown in activity that means that the activity will remain slow now until the end of the season."

Ehresmann said the flu vaccine is still widely available, and clinics that have run out have been able to find more through an online bulletin board set up by the Health Department.

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