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Monitoring continues locally for H1N1 influenza virus

WILLMAR -- The number of H1N1 novel influenza cases confirmed in Minnesota has jumped to 124.

Thirteen of these cases were reported in southwestern Minnesota, according to the Minnesota Department of Health.

"Clearly there has been activity. It's what we have been expecting," said Ann Stehn, director of Kandiyohi County Public Health.

Although the novel influenza virus, also known as swine flu, has caused mild illness among most people, 30 Minnesotans became sick enough to be hospitalized, the state Health Department said.

The virus likely is circulating more widely than the numbers suggest. Actual testing and confirmation of the virus strain is being focused on the cases that are most severe and on cases identified through the state's influenza surveillance program.

The 13 cases that have been laboratory-confirmed in southwestern Minnesota aren't identified by city or county.

Individual cases remain important, Stehn said. "Influenza can really knock you down."

But the current focus by state Health Department officials is primarily on monitoring the virus in the state as a whole, she said.

"They're really just trying to figure out what's happening with the virus. What do we see the virus doing and how is it behaving?" she said.

"We know it's circulating around our state and around our country."

Kandiyohi County Public Health is continuing to communicate with the Minnesota Department of Health and is prepared to offer local assistance if it's needed, Stehn said.

Meanwhile, local public health agencies are looking ahead to late summer and fall, when preparation for the 2009-10 influenza season and flu vaccination will start ramping up.

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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