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Flu-related illnesses spiking again, 58 deaths in Minnesota so far

There have been 762 flu-related illness outbreaks in Minnesota schools.

The first two weeks of February have seen the worst of the flu season, with more patients with flu-related symptoms being hospitalized this month than there were during a two-week spike around Christmas. 

In the last two weeks, 646 people have been hospitalized, bringing the flu season total to nearly 2,400. The number is closing in on last year's total number of flu-related illness hospitalizations (2,543) but pales in comparison to the more than 6,400 hospitalizations in 2017-18. 

Flu-related deaths are up to 58 in Minnesota, including two pediatric deaths (younger than 18). There were 95 flu-related deaths in the 2018-19 flu season and a staggering 440 the year before. 

Schools are also continue to be hit hard with outbreaks. 

There were 60 new school outbreaks for the week ending Feb. 15, and 76 the week prior, bringing the seasonal total to 762. A school outbreak is defined by the Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) as K-12 schools with at least 5% of total enrollment is absent with flu-like illness. 

In the case of an elementary classroom, it's considered an outbreak any time three or more students are absent with flu-like illness. 

“It has been a particularly bad year for kids,” an MDH official told the Star Tribune. “It would have been quite a bit worse if people had not been vaccinated.”

This year's flu vaccine has been about 45% effective, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 

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