Health officials gear up for year-round flu fight

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The flu season that officially began in October and ended two weeks ago was one of the deadliest in recent years – 201 Minnesotans died from flu-related illnesses. One facility – Children’s Hospitals and Clinics of Minnesota – had a record 1,085 lab-confirmed cases of flu, the Star Tribune reports.

So Twin Cities hospitals and Minnesota health officials are devising new strategies for the flu fight, the newspaper reports. For the first time, some hospitals are now monitoring patients year-round for flu symptoms, instead of just during the fall and winter when the flu is typically at its worst, the Star Tribune reports.

State officials also expect to have a new and improved vaccine available this year.

The 2012-13 raised concern among health officials. The 201 flu-related deaths compares to 33 deaths in the 2011-12 season; 70 deaths in the 2010-11 season; and 67 deaths in the 2009-10 season.

The number of people hospitalized, more than 3,000, also climbed to the highest number in five years, MDH said in its final flu report of the season.

Nationwide, this flu season was particularly hard on children: more than 100 died, compared to last year's mild flu season when just 34 children died, USA Today reported. Of the children who died, 90 percent had not been vaccinated, the newspaper reported. This year's season was intense and started early compared to some past years, health experts say.

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