Flu starting slow in region | BrainerdDispatch.com | Brainerd, Minnesota

Flu starting slow in region

Posted: December 4, 2013 - 10:12pm

Flu cases have hit the Brainerd lakes area, though they haven’t yet reached peak level.

At Essentia Health St. Joseph’s Medical Center, there has been one confirmed case of the flu.

Cuyuna Regional Medical Center in Crosby has no confirmed cases.

Those numbers don’t fully grasp how many people have caught the virus, as not everyone visits the hospital once symptoms occur, said Kari Russell, RN and infection preventionist at Essentia Health. And not everyone who does go to the hospital needs to be tested.

The bug can start causing aches and fevers as early as October, spanning as late as May. Typically, cases of the flu spike around January and February.

Last year it hit earlier and heavier than normal. Just how hard and when the flu will hit this year is a guessing game.

“It’s too early to tell,” Russell said.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), flu activity is low overall across the United States. It’s increasing in some parts of the region, however. In central Minnesota, the flu spread is on the “local” status level, according to the CDC.

But an increase in flu activity is likely in the coming weeks, the CDC reported.

The CDC recommends a flu vaccine for anyone who is 6 months old or older.

For all the vaccine procrastinators out there, it’s still not too late to get the shot.

It can take up to two weeks to reach its full level of protection, so don’t put it off too much longer, Russell said.

“We’re coming into the time where the flu might start ramping up a bit,” she said.

Since September, Essentia hospital and outlining clinics have given out 11,400 vaccines.

An infected person can spread influenza when they cough, sneeze or just talk near others, or someone can get sick after touching something that an infected person had previously sneezed on or touched, Russell said.

So wash your hands often and cover your sneezes with your inner arm.

According to the most recent statistics from the CDC, there have been 22 influenza-related hospitalizations reported to date in Minnesota. The median age of admission is 64.

JESSICA LARSEN, staff writer, may be reached at jessica.larsen@brainerddispatch.com or 855-5859. Follow me on Twitter at www.twitter.com/brainerdnews.