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Flu claims the life of a 5th child, though the virus' spread has slowed

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A fifth child has died from an influenza-related illness this season, even though the spread of the virus has been downgraded by health officials.

The Minnesota Department of Health on Thursday confirmed that there have now been five pediatric deaths in two months, with Owatonna teenager Shannon Zwanziger the first to pass away.

This is in spite of the fact that the severity of this flu season appears to be petering out following a massive spike of hospitalizations in December.

Health officials have downgraded the spread of influenza from "regional" to "local" after just 16 people were hospitalized in the week ending Feb. 7. That's compared to more than 500 who needed hospital treatment during a single week in December.

There was a slight rise in serious cases this past week after only six people were hospitalized in the week ending Jan. 31, but the health department considers the virus now to be contained locally, rather than regionally.

There was also a slight increase in the number of new outbreaks reported at schools, from 10 in the previous week to 12.

So far, there have been 2,283 flu-related hospitalizations in the 2014-15 season, the second highest in the past six years. In 2012-13, there had been 3,068 hospitalizations by this point.

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