Flu activity still at high level across Minnesota

Minnesota’s latest influenza activity report shows respiratory illness levels aren’t getting much better but they also didn’t get much worse last week.

According to a report released Thursday from the Minnesota Department of Health (MDH), the percentage of lab tests that came back positive for influenza last week dropped slightly from the previous week but remains high at 30.8%.

While hospitalizations due to the flu also dropped slightly last week, at least 501 people were still hospitalized, bringing the state’s total number of flu-related hospitalizations this season to 1,857 — already more than double all of last year.

Additionally, another nine flu-related deaths were reported, moving the state’s total to 28 this season. The median age of those who’ve died is 79, according to MDH data.

The best news in the flu report showed the number of school outbreaks last week was almost cut in half compared to the previous week, with 76 reported last week compared to 142 the week prior. A total of 782 school outbreaks have been reported this season in Minnesota. MDH considers an outbreak to be when 5% of a school’s students have a flu-like illness or three or more kids from the same elementary classroom have a flu-like illness.

However, long-term care outbreaks went in the opposite direction of schools, as 12 were reported last week compared to seven the week before. A total of 26 have been reported in the state this year.

MDH says 33% of Minnesotans — around 1.84 million people — are vaccinated against the flu this year.

According to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) data, Minnesota still has “high” influenza activity.

The CDC also says an estimated 78,000 people have been hospitalized across the country due to flu-related illnesses this season and around 4,500 people have died.