Influenza in Minnesota; A Look at the Numbers and What Your Family Should Know

Posted at 9:24 AM on Jun 1, 2017

By: Dr. James Welters, Northwest Family Physicians

According to the Minnesota Department of Health, the flu is now officially “widespread” in Minnesota, a sign that this year’s flu season will be harsher than most. The term “widespread” means the flu has been detected in four of eight reporting districts in the state. Since the flu season started, more than 185 Minnesotans have been hospitalized with symptoms.

So, how do you know if you or a loved one has the flu? More importantly, what do you do? Here are some points to keep in mind.

Beware of Symptoms.

Your child may complain of being very dizzy or simply act sick. This is the time for parents to listen to the instincts and know the most common signs of flu which include:

  • A 100oF or higher fever or feeling feverish (not everyone with the flu has a fever)
  • A cough and/or sore throat.
  • A runny or stuffy nose.
  • Headaches and/or body aches.
  • Chills.
  • Fatigue.
  • Nausea, vomiting, and/or diarrhea (most common in children)

With the flu being so widespread here in Minnesota, we are more interested in the symptoms than a positive result from a flu test. Be especially careful if a young child or elderly person is exhibiting these symptoms. They should be seen immediately. Antivirals from the doctor are usually only effective in shortening the duration of the flu if started within 48 hours of when the symptoms first occur. Over-the-counter flu remedies help with symptoms, but won’t shorten the amount of time the flu lasts.

Unfortunately, this year’s flu vaccine doesn’t cover the dominant strain of the flu. Still, it is important to get a flu shot. It still provides protection. According to Michael Osterholm, director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota, "The concept of how well vaccines protect against flu viruses is much, much more complicated than just a simple match.”

Learn more about the importance of the flu shot in my interview with WCCO TV’s Heather Brown for her nightly 10pm WCCO News segment “Good Question”: