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Influenza activity on rise in the area

WILLMAR — Influenza activity has been rising across Minnesota and is now widespread, the Minnesota Department of Health said Thursday.

According to preliminary new figures released Thursday, 71 influenza-related hospitalizations were reported during the week that ended Dec. 28.

Local flu activity has been increasing since the week before Christmas, said Jo DeBruycker, manager of the Health Learning Center at Affiliated Community Medical Centers, which is one of several flu surveillance sites for the state Health Department.

“Once we got around the holiday time, we really saw it. We began to say, ‘We’re in influenza season,’” DeBruycker said.

During the most recent week, Dec. 22 to 28, ACMC tested 94 patients who came in with flu-like illnesses. Eighteen of them, or about one in five, tested positive for influenza, DeBruycker said.

Most were young or middle-aged adults and most were unvaccinated, she said.

All of the cases involved an A strain of the influenza virus, the type that has been appearing most commonly in Minnesota this season.

Health officials are braced to see more spread of the flu now that the holidays are over and school is back in session. The state Health Department reported no school outbreaks of flu during the last week of December but six the week before.

Annual flu shots are recommended as the best protection against severe illness. Officials say there’s still time to get vaccinated but urge people not to delay too long, as it takes up to two weeks for full protection to develop. Other precautionary steps — adequate rest, frequent hand washing, covering coughs — can help reduce the risk as well.

“This is the time of year when people are at low ebb. It’s time to fine-tune those routines that keep you healthy in the first place,” DeBruycker said. “If you’re not feeling good, stay home.”

The Minnesota Department of Health said 189 flu-related hospitalizations have been reported statewide during the current influenza season.

Last year’s flu season peaked in early January and was one of the most severe in recent years, with 231 deaths in Minnesota and 3,068 hospitalizations.


Anne Polta

Anne Polta covers health care, business/economic development and general assignment. Her HealthBeat blog can be found at Follow her on Twitter at @AnnePolta.

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