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Flu takes toll on economy, region

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KSTP reports that more than 1100 people in Minnesota have been hospitalized because of influenza and that 27 of them have died.

The station reports the flu outbreak has an impact on the economy's health. People who have contracted influenza are staying home, leading to a higher number of absences, decreased productivity for businesses and fewer customers for retailers. During an average year, the flu typically costs U.S. businesses about $10.4 billion, but this year is shaping up into a year with a higher-than-average number of cases.

Neighboring states are also battling flu outbreaks. KAAL reports that a top Iowa health official calls this the worst flu season in many years. Complete figures from Iowa are not available.

But the numbers of people sickened have been tallied in Wisconsin. WDIO reports that Wisconsin has been hit hard, with 2,837 confirmed influenza cases as of Jan. 4. According to the Department of Health Services, that's about 800 more cases than Wisconsin saw during the entire 2011-12 flu season. The total number of deaths is unknown, because Wisconsin doesn't count adults who die of influenza-associated illnesses, but it has been confirmed that one Wisconsin teenager has died.

An ample supply of vaccines is still available in both Iowa and Wisconsin, as well as in Minnesota.

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