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MDH: 3 more flu-related deaths confirmed in Minnesota

Updated: December 31, 2019 11:40 AM

Three more people have been confirmed to have died from influenza, which is also now considered widespread in Minnesota, according to the latest flu activity report from the Minnesota Department of Health.

According to the latest weekly report, which is for last week, surveillance indicators showed the flu is now widespread in the state. The report says 262 people have now been hospitalized with the flu this season, up from the total of 176 listed in the department's last weekly report. The vast majority of those cases have been identified as Influenza B, according to the report.

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The report also confirmed three new deaths from the flu this season, bringing the total number of deaths to six. None of those have been pediatric deaths. All of those confirmed deaths have occurred in past weeks. The median age of those who suffered flu-associated deaths is 75.

Large number of students still affected by flu-related illnesses in Shakopee schools, district monitoring situation

Flu-like illness reports by schools also spiked in the past week. MDH reported 60 new school outbreaks last week, bringing the total for this season to 123.

“What we have this year is a little bit unusual in that the predominant strain is influenza B,” epidemiologist Karen Martin said.

That B strain mostly gets kids sick.

Earlier this week, Shakopee Public Schools said schools in its district were hit hard by flu-related illnesses, with almost 30% of one school's student body calling out sick Monday, and four other schools in the district reporting over 5% of their student body out sick with flu-related illnesses.

School districts are required to contact the Minnesota Department of Health when 5% of the student body is absent and reporting flu and flu-like symptoms. However, those flu reports aren't listed in the latest MDH report.

Meanwhile, the influenza A strain is expected to hit adults next.

“The difference between influenza A and B is basically just the type of influenza," said Abe Jacob, a pediatrician at Masonic Children's Hospital. "... But we don't handle it differently in terms of both prevention, trying to keep in under control, and even treatment."

Both Allina Health and M Health Fairview hospitals are proactively restricting who can come visit patients. Since it's difficult for children to cover their cough and wash their hands thoroughly, kids under 5 and anyone who appears to have flu-like symptoms are asked to stay away.

“Typically we'll stay with the visitor restriction until influenza is no longer considered widespread, so it's really unknown how long this will go until we get that data from the Minnesota Department of Health,” Jacob said. "What we're anticipating is that this is the very beginning of the widespread influenza that will last for weeks, if not months"

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Crystal Bui

Copyright 2019 - KSTP-TV, LLC A Hubbard Broadcasting Company

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