Number of Minnesota schools with flu outbreaks surges; 2nd child death reported

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The number of Minnesota schools reporting flu outbreaks jumped from 19 to 203 in a week, according to the Health Department.

The surge was reported in the department's latest weekly tabulation of flu statistics.

Meanwhile, the state also confirmed the second case of a child dying from the flu, Northland's News Center reports. Officials did not release details about the death but said the patient was younger than 18.

MPR News says the type of flu that's been circulating in Minnesota this season is especially hard on young children and elderly patients. MPR visited Children's Hospitals and Clinics of Minnesota, which has seen more than 400 visits to its emergency department every day for two weeks – a record that doubles the usual number, the hospital says.

The virus has also been spreading through the staff at Children's, officials tell MPR, causing the hospital to rely more on floating nursing teams and visiting nurses.

A spokesman for Mayo Clinic tells the Star Tribune they've already seen more flu patients than they did in the entire flu season a year ago.

A Health Department official says in the Pioneer Press the jump in the number of schools reporting outbreaks hasn't been seen since the flu pandemic of 2009.

The Pioneer Press also reports that more hospitals are restricting their visiting policies to help limit the spread of the virus. Health East is requiring that masks be worn by all visitors at the four hospitals it operates and is prohibiting visitors younger than 5.

So, what can you do about the flu? Even though the vaccine in this year's flu shots is not a perfect match for the particular strain most prevalent this winter, doctors say a shot still provides some of your best protection.

Dr. Johan Bakken of St. Luke's Hospital in Duluth tells Northland's News Center those who come down with the flu will have a milder case if they've been vaccinated.

WCCO reports a flu-fighting prescription drug called Tamiflu has become hard to find in some areas. The station says some wholesalers are rationing the drug to ensure it lasts through the entire flu season. As a result, some patients may need to visit two or three pharmacies to find one that has Tamiflu in stock.

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