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School flu outbreaks spike in Minnesota

“I don’t think we’ve peaked yet but we are definitely having high flu activity,” said state epidemiologist Karen Martin.

SHAKOPEE, Minn. — Dozens of schools in Minnesota are reporting outbreaks of the flu this week. Minnesota Department of Health officials say last week 14 schools reported outbreaks. This week they expect that number to quadruple.

One district experiencing a large number of sick students is Shakopee. On Tuesday, nearly 1 in 3 students at West Middle School was out sick, most reporting flu like symptoms. At Sun Path Elementary flu spiked last week when 100 students were out. Tuesday, 20 percent of students were still absent.

Katie Eleo and her 2nd grade son Jonah who goes to Sun Path both caught the bug. “Saturday is when the fever hit. It got up to 103 and he still had it yesterday morning,” Eleo said.  She said her whole family did get the flu shot.

Superintendent Mike Redmond hopes the flu is leveling off. “It appears that they're plateauing and that we're relieved by. We still feel for those poor kids who are home sick and have the flu,” Redmond said.

Still, he was concerned “What will happen next?” he asked. “Is this the start of additional spikes or increases?”

RELATED: More than 300 flu-related student absences reported at Shakopee middle school

RELATED: CDC: Young kids at high risk of 'serious' flu-related complications

MDH says this flu season has started earlier than other years. “I don’t think we’ve peaked yet but we are definitely having high flu activity,” said state epidemiologist Karen Martin.  

She said right now the department is calling the flu “regional” but could change the classification to “widespread” this week.

At Hennepin Healthcare in Minneapolis, pediatrician Dr. Krishnan Subrahmanian says he’s seeing lots of patients testing positive for Influenza Type B.

“This year we're seeing flu B and why this is important is flu B we know tends to spread a bit more quickly among young people,” he explained.

Still, he says there is high confidence the vaccine used in this year’s flu shot is a match.  

And, just because you got sick doesn’t mean the vaccine didn’t work. It likely lessened the severity of your illness. 

“It worked if it kept you out of the ICU and out of the hospital,” Subrahmanian said.  

Despite being housebound, Katie Eleo agrees her shot probably helped. “I still think it's worth it to get the flu shot because I think I'm in better shape than I would have been if I hadn't,” she said.

Doctors say there are ways to stop the spread of the flu:

  • Good, frequent hand washing
  • Staying home if you have symptoms – the flu is most contagious while you have a fever
  • Seeing a doctor if you have symptoms and are around young children or the elderly
  • Get a flu shot

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