x
Breaking News
More () »

Minneapolis St. Paul News, Weather, Traffic, Sports | Minneapolis, Minnesota | kare11.com

Health officials: Flu is here, prepare now

The reason for the rush? If you wait for an outbreak it could be too late.

ST PAUL, Minn. — The flu has already made it's way into Minnesota this year, with five hospitalizations to date and four schools in the state reporting outbreaks of flu-like illness.

These numbers, provided by the Minnesota Department of Health (MDH), will be updated again on Thursday, but health officials say you shouldn't wait for an outbreak near you before getting your flu shot.

"I'd say our level of activity is sporadic," said Karen Martin, senior epidemiologist with MDH. "I think you should always expect the unexpected with influenza. The best time to get the flu shot is when you have an opportunity to get the flu shot."

For many, that opportunity is now. Hennepin Healthcare has been mobilizing flu-shot clinics since September, and they still have plenty of doses available.

"It's not too late," said Nan Loman, Clinical Supervisor of Hennepin Healthcare Worksite Wellness. "The last 3 weeks, we've been doing about 3,000 vaccinations a day."

The reason for the rush? If you wait for an outbreak it could be too late.

"It's a good time for the flu shot because it takes about 2 weeks to build up your full immunity," Loman said. "And based on what happened in the southern hemisphere, we are expecting it to be a pretty severe season."

Australia's flu season is now winding down, and the country saw both a spike in cases and deaths due to the H3N2 strain. The season also started earlier.

According to MDH, it's too early to know which strain will strike here or how well the vaccine will match it. The effectiveness of the vaccine generally isn't known until at least halfway through the flu season, but that's also no reason to wait around.

"Studies show that usually you have a much less severe case of the flu if you've gotten a flu vaccination," Loman said. "Even if it isn't a match."

Here's some perspective on previous flu seasons in Minnesota.

2018:

  • 2,500 flu hospitalizations
  • 400 school outbreaks
  • 2 children died from the flu

2017:

  • 6,300 flu hospitalizations
  • 800 school outbreaks
  • 6 children died from the flu

2016:

  • 3,700 flu hospitalizations
  • 400 school outbreaks
  • 2 children died from the flu

2015:

  • 1,500 flu hospitalizations
  • 200 school outbreaks
  • 3 children died from the flu

2014:

  • 4,100 flu hospitalizations
  • 700 school outbreaks
  • 10 children died from the flu

RELATED: Tips on how to stay healthy during the cold and flu season

RELATED: Real Men Wear Gowns: Fighting the flu