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Severity of Minnesota flu outbreak downgraded as cases drop

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The severity of the spread of influenza in Minnesota during the current flu season has been downgraded following a fall in cases.

The Minnesota Department of Health announced Thursday that it is now categorizing the spread of flu in the state as "regional", having been considered "widespread" since December.

Official figures state that there were 21 hospitalizations related to flu in the week between January 10 and 17, which is a fall from 49 the week before, and much fewer than the number of cases seen in the corresponding week in the past two years.

There were warnings last month that this flu season would be the most severe in recent memory, even more so than 2012/13, when more than 3,000 people were hospitalized.

But case numbers have been falling since Christmas, and so far there have been just under 1,600 hospitalizations across the state.

Last week, health officials warned that the flu vaccine is only 23 percent effective this year, partly because the predominant flu strain seen in Minnesota this year, the H3N2 strain, is more resistant to anti-viral drugs.

And despite the dropping hospitalizations, this year's flu season has already claimed the lives of four children.

Figures from North Dakota show that the state has had far fewer flu-related hospitalizations since the beginning of September, with just 170.

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