Influenza outbreaks remain elevated | BrainerdDispatch.com | Brainerd, Minnesota

Influenza outbreaks remain elevated

Vaccine still available

Posted: March 24, 2011 - 7:17pm

Influenza activity is elevated in Minnesota and Crow Wing County health officials said it’s not too late to get vaccinated. 

Public health officials said once people have become ill with influenza they have been sick for five to 10 days and in bed with high temperatures. 

One woman reported feeling fine and going out to a friend’s gathering only to be suddenly taken ill. What started as a sore throat, two hours later turned into a fever that came and went for three days.

“It was like my bones hurt,” she said. 

Drinking plenty of liquids helped but the fever and pressure in her head made for a difficult week. 

“I was in bed and didn’t want to get up,” she said. 

Since the start of the flu season, 25 influenza-related deaths have been reported in the state with 12 of those deaths reported recently.

The state Department of Health reported 101 people were hospitalized in Minnesota with laboratory-confirmed influenza the week of March 13-19. 

Influenza activity remained “elevated” in the state last week. 

Margie Young, senior administrative technical specialist for immunizations at Crow Wing County, said vaccine is plentiful in the lakes area from clinics to pharmacies to public health offices. 

“It’s not too late,” said Stephanie Kubas, Crow Wing County. “March is historically a bad flu month.”

In the state, there are 13 schools reporting outbreaks of influenza-like illness recently, including one reporting an outbreak in Crow Wing County during the week of March 6-12. In February, the Pequot Lakes School District reported an outbreak among elementary school students, Crow Wing County reported. 

Since the start of the flu season, 11 weeks ago, 202 schools have reported outbreaks and so have 33 long-term care facilities. 

The seasonal influenza — which is a contagious upper respiratory infection that can be prevented with an annual vaccination — affects an individual’s nose, throat and lungs. It’s not the stomach variety.

 

Flu symptoms include fever, cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, body aches, headache, chills, fatigue. Some people may experience vomiting and diarrhea or have the respiratory symptoms without a fever. Health officials note the illness has the potential to lead to hospitalization and death.

The ways to prevent the spread of influenza are known even to the smallest of children these days — cover the nose and mouth when coughing. And those hand-wash bottles appear on nearly every countertop from businesses to churches. Hand washing is encouraged along with avoiding touching one’s eyes, nose or mouth and spreading germs.

This year’s flu vaccine contains the H1N1 strain, a B strain and a H3 strain not in the 2009-10 vaccine. So health officials say even if people received a flu vaccine last year, getting a seasonal flu shot this year is recommended. Health workers and care givers, especially those in households with infants 6 months or younger, are encouraged to get the vaccine.

Crow Wing County public health officials said people should check with their medical providers regarding shots. There are also area pharmacies throughout the area offering flu shots. But if there are barriers to people to get the shots, public health is also offering public walk in flu clinics in March and April. The Minnesota Department of Health website, www.mdhflu.com, lists clinic locations.

 

RENEE RICHARDSON may be reached at renee.richardson@brainerddispatch.com or 855-5852.