The number of influenza cases is dropping, but a Mayo Clinic expert says flu season is not over.
In the most recent reporting week, there were nearly 80 flu-related hospitalizations — about 30 fewer than the week before. Seven of them were in south central Minnesota, and the Minnesota Department of Health says 367 people in the area – or six percent of the region’s population – were hospitalized with influenza this season.
Mayo Clinic infectious disease specialist Dr. Pritish Tosh said the season is tapering off but, “This was an especially bad influenza season, it looks like, from many metrics; influenza-like illness, hospitalization, death. This is probably the worst influenza season we’ve had in a decade.”
He explained that there are many reasons this season has been worse than others, including the virus itself, because, “Outbreaks, epidemics caused each year by H3N2 viruses are often more severe than those caused by H1N1 viruses – and this year was caused by an H3N2 virus.”
He added that the vaccine is also historically less effective against this year’s predominant strain – but still an important tool against the illness because, “Even if people get influenza who got vaccinated, they are likely to have fewer complications. So, the vast majority – 80 to 90 percent – of the children who died of influenza this season were unvaccinated.”
There have been five flu-related child deaths in Minnesota this season; however, the state health department says the median age of those admitted to the hospital with the flu was 73-years-old.