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Health officials: Flu season to be especially tough on children; early peak expected in Minnesota

Updated: December 12, 2019 06:23 PM

Minnesota health officials say the state can expect an early peak flu season that may be especially tough on children.

New numbers from the Minnesota Department of Health show influenza is spiking.

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Kris Ehresmann, the director of infectious disease for MDH, said Influenza B has been the dominant strain.

"When we see this strain circulating, we tend to see more disease in kids," Ehresmann said.

He said 13 schools were reporting influenza-like illnesses last week compared to just two outbreaks in long-term care facilities and that suggests higher activity among younger age groups.

Following the release of the new numbers, the department said it believes we'll have an early peak flu season. But it also told 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS that it's not too late for the flu shot.

Frank Rhame, an epidemiologist with Allina Health, also said it's not too late for the shot — but it's getting close.

"When you think about the number of people who are going to get influenza, you're talking tens of thousands of deaths prevented in the nation if we get everybody vaccinated," Rhame said.

His office has been busier following the state's trend of flu illnesses. Rhame added that one doesn't get the flu shot for themselves, but also to protect the most vulnerable from this potentially deadly illness, such as children and the elderly.

"From a public health standpoint, the single most important thing to do: people getting vaccinated," Rhame said.

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Ben Henry

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