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Rate of flu deaths in Minnesota slowing

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Fifteen people died in Minnesota of flu-related illnesses the week of Jan. 13-19, a steep decline from 33 fatalities the week before, the Minnesota Department of Health said in a weekly influenza report released Thursday.

In total, there have been 75 deaths attributed to the flu so far this influenza season in Minnesota.

The new total is higher than the 67 flu-related fatalities during the last significant flu outbreak, in 2009-10, when an unusual H1N1 strain struck the U.S., the Star Tribune reports.

Health Department spokesman Doug Schultz said it will be another week before officials know if the flu season has peaked in the state, WCCO reported.

The report says 208 people were hospitalized with laboratory-confirmed influenza during that Jan. 13-19 week, down sharply from nearly 500 the week before. In all, 2,128 people have been hospitalized with laboratory-confirmed influenza this season, the department said.

There were 112 Minnesota schools reporting outbreaks of influenza-like illness during that week; there have been a total of 374 outbreaks in schools this season.

Meanwhile Thursday, national health officials said a new stomach bug, a new Sydney strain of norovirus with gut-wrenching side effects, is sweeping the globe and has hit the U.S., the Associated Press reported.

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