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Influenza case fast school closure, hospital restrictions in Minnesota



Signs of an uptick during the influenza season appear over Minnesota, where Twin Cities hospitals announce precautions to contain the virus and a rural neighborhood distances classes because 20 percent of its students are ill.

State health officials said events underline the need to be vigilant and take good public health precautions, although the number of outbreaks in schools and nursing homes and patient admission has so far been relatively low in winter.

"Still time to be vaccinated," said Karen Martin, a state epidemiologist. "Still a good idea."

The state has recorded 26 influenza-like outbreaks in schools over the past two weeks, and reports from Wabasso Public Schools suggest that more come.

All classes, activities, and practices in the southwestern Minnesota district were canceled Thursday and Friday after 74 students and nine employees who were called sick on Wednesday. It was up from 53 students who were out sick on Tuesday.

Superintendent Wade McKittrick said in a Facebook post that the closure was necessary "to fight the huge amount of disease and prevent further spread." Classes in the district serving Lucan, Seaforth, Vesta, Wanda and Wabasso are set to resume Monday.

This winter's flu season occurs milder than the 201

7-2018 season, resulting in 435 flu-like deaths and 6,446 hospitalizations. So far this season, the state has reported 10 influenza-related deaths. No children involved. Figures released Thursday by the Minnesota Department of Health showed that influenza-related hospitalizations dropped slightly, from 46 two weeks ago to 31 last week.

Martin said that the H1A influenza strain circulating this year is often associated with milder seasons than the H3 strain that dominated last year's outbreak. Some influenza seasons may have aggressive other actions, however, when B strains appear at the end of winter and early spring.

Last week, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that this season's flu vaccine seems well matched to the circulating strains of virus. Vaccine efficacy has varied from 10 percent to 60 percent over the last decade.

Estimates of how many Minnesota vaccines received the vaccine will come out in the spring, Martin said.

Earlier this week, Allina Health began limiting visitors to its hospitals and clinics "to protect all patients, visitors and staff from the flu." Allina operates more than 65 medical clinics as well as 12 Minnesota hospitals, including Abbott Northwestern in Minneapolis, United in St. Paul and Mercy in Coon Rapids and Fridley. 19659007] Allina asks anyone who is sick and children under 5 to refrain from visiting patients in her hospitals and clinics. Anyone with sore throat will be asked to wear a mask, and visitors to birth centers and baby units will be screened for wellness, the hospital said.

Other hospitals have taken similar measures. Children's hospitals and clinics in Minnesota adopted their standard winter measures on November 13; They include daily wellness checks of visitors, after which they wear green, yellow or red marks that determine their level of access to the hospital and whether to wear masks. The University of Minnesota announced its own set of visiting measures at its hospitals on January 21.

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