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MDH report: Flu outbreaks in schools on the rise

The weekly respiratory illness report for the week ending on Oct. 29, shows total flu hospitalizations nearly tripled from the week before, up to 72.

PLYMOUTH, Minnesota — Minnesota is starting to see an uptick in flu cases, according to new data from the state department of health.

The Weekly Influenza and Respiratory Illness Report for the week ending on Oct. 29, 2022 shows flu hospitalizations nearly tripled from the week before. In the most recent report, there were 72 flu hospitalizations reported so far this season. During the week ending on Oct. 22 there were 25 total flu hospitalizations.

"We're 6 to 8 weeks ahead of the usual start of the season," said Dr. Frank Rahme, an infectious disease doctor with Allina Health. 

Flu outbreaks in schools are also on the rise. 

New MDH numbers show there have now been 35 total school flu outbreaks so far this season, up from 17 in the previous week. In the week from Oct. 23-29, there were 18 new school outbreaks.

"Usually the schools get it first then we get it in the long term care centers," said Dr. Rahme. 

According to MDH, K-12 schools report an outbreak of influenza-like illness (ILI) when the number of students absent with ILI reaches 5% of total enrollment or three or more students with ILI are absent from the same elementary classroom.

From 2019-2020, there were 921 school influenza outbreaks during flu season.  

On Nov. 1, Plymouth Middle School reported that at least 5% of its student population was experiencing cold and flu-like symptoms, including a fever over 100 degrees, sore throat, cough and/or nasal congestion. 

The school did not say if a specific illness or strain is making most kids sick, but asked that families keep children at home until they're well enough to return to school: Once they've been fever-free for 24 hours without the need for fever-reducing medicine or after 24 hours have passed since their last episode of vomiting or diarrhea.

"Vaccine effectiveness is a function of how many people take it and how bad the season is, you can have a great vaccine but the worst season in a lot of cases," said Dr. Rahme. He went on to explain, "if we could get everybody vaccinated, that helps us protect each other."

Need a flu shot? Click here to find a clinic or pharmacy administering flu shots near you.

To date, two people have died from the flu this season, neither of which was a pediatric death, according to MDH.

Nationwide and in Minnesota, health care providers are reporting an uptick in RSV cases. At the end of October, data from MDH showed more than 500 RSV cases had been reported in the state. Most of the children hospitalized for RSV were 1-year-old or younger.

According to the Weekly Influenza Report, nearly 140 children ages 0-17 years old were hospitalized with RSV through the week ending on Oct. 29. 

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