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Statewide Flu Numbers at Lowest Level in Months

The Minnesota Department of Health says almost every state has experienced a record-breaking flu season. (Jeremy Tenenbaum/Flickr)
The Minnesota Department of Health says almost every state has experienced a record-breaking flu season. (Jeremy Tenenbaum/Flickr)
March 20, 2018

ST. PAUL, Minn. – It's been a record-breaking flu season, but it seems things have turned a corner.

The Minnesota Department of Health reports there were more than 100 flu-related hospitalizations in the state the week ending March 10. But that's about half the number reported the previous week, and flu-related hospitalizations are at their lowest level since early December.

Health Department Senior Epidemiologist Melissa McMahon says the severity of this year's flu outbreak was due in part to the nature of the virus.

"It's a flu AH3-dominant year this year, and that does tend to hit elderly persons harder than other years," she explains.

McMahon adds older people are already at a higher risk of flu-related hospitalizations.

Minnesota has seen more than 5,600 people hospitalized with the flu this year, compared to about 3,700 the year before and 1,500 during the 2016 season.

While the numbers of cases are going down, McMahon says there's still another flu strain they're monitoring.

"We are still seeing a lot of influenza B, which is also common for an H3 year," she adds. "We tend to see influenza B kind of more in the springtime. And whether or not that's dying down, we can't say yet."

The flu continues to be widespread across the country, although she says Minnesota's outbreak seems to be improving faster than in most other states.

McMahon shares the easiest way to stay healthy.

"The importance of hand hygiene can't be understated," she stresses. "Definitely keep your hands clean, and stay home when you're sick."

She notes that flu cases happen throughout the year, and aren't really limited to one season, so her department will continue monitoring the illness.

Elizabeth Braun, Public News Service - MN