It’s been a record-breaking flu season, but it seems things have turned a corner. The Minnesota Department of Health reports there were more than 100 flu-related hospitalizations in the state the week ending March 10th. But that’s about half the number reported the previous week, and flu-related hospitalizations are at their lowest level since early December.
Health Department Senior Epidemiologist Melissa McMahon said the severity of this year’s flu outbreak was due in part to the nature of the virus. “It’s a flu AH3-dominant year this year, and that does tend to hit elderly persons harder than other years, ” she explained. McMahon added older people are already at a higher risk of flu-related hospitalizations.
Minnesota has seen more than 5,600 people hospitalized with the flu this year, compared to about 3,700 the year before and 1,500 during the 2016 season.
While the numbers of cases are going down, McMahon said there’s still another flu strain they’re monitoring because, “We are still seeing a lot of influenza B, which is also common for an H3 year. We tend to see influenza B kind of more in the springtime. And whether or not that’s dying down, we can’t say yet.”
The flu continues to be widespread across the country, although she said Minnesota’s outbreak seems to be improving faster than in most other states.
McMahon said the easiest way to stay healthy is to remember, “The importance of hand hygiene can’t be understated. Definitely keep your hands clean, and stay home when you’re sick.”
She noted that flu cases happen throughout the year, and aren’t really limited to one season, so her department will continue monitoring the illness.