Local influenza cases decreasePublished 11:00am Sunday, January 20, 2013
Cases of influenza-like illness have continued to be reported in Freeborn County during the last week, though the number appears to be decreasing, according to local health officials on Friday.
Patty Abbott, who works with infection prevention with Mayo Clinic Health System in Albert Lea, said the number of patients coming in with symptoms of the flu have “quieted down” this week.
“We were pretty overwhelmed a few weeks ago with long wait times,” Abbott said. “Our patient volumes are more manageable, more normal.”
Abbott said based on recommendations from the Minnesota Department of Health and the federal Centers for Disease Control, the hospital is no longer testing patients with the symptoms and has limited treatment primarily to those admitted to the hospital.
“We are recommending that people stay home if ill with fever and respiratory illness unless they require medical care,” she said.
Abbott and Freeborn County Public Health Director Sue Yost said it’s not too late for people to get their flu vaccine.
People at high risk of developing complications from influenza include children younger than 5, adults 65 or older, pregnant women and people who have other medical conditions.
As of the latest report, which came Monday, there had been 60 deaths and 1,842 hospitalizations across the state because of influenza or complications with the illness. This compares to 285 hospitalizations in the flu season of 2008-09, 965 in 2010-11 and 552 in 2011-12, according to a Minnesota Department of Health news release. In the pandemic year of 2009-10 there were about 1,800 hospitalizations.
Two-thirds of the deaths have been people older than 80.
A Department of Health news release states in addition to getting vaccinated, people can take a series of other steps to avoid catching or spreading influenza:
• Get plenty of rest and physical activity. Eat healthy.
• Stay home from school or work if you have a respiratory infection.
• When coughing or sneezing, cover your nose and mouth with a tissue or cough into your sleeve.
• Clean surfaces you touch frequently, such as doorknobs, water faucets, telephones and refrigerator handles.
• Wash your hands with soap and water or with an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
Vaccines are available through the Freeborn County Public Health Department, Mayo Clinic Health System in Albert Lea and most pharmacies in the area.
Appointments are needed through the clinic and the county.
Some pharmacies have restrictions on what ages of children they allow the vaccine to be given.
The Albert Lea hospital has also launched a flu information hot line to provide callers with information about flu symptoms, whether further evaluation by a medical provider is necessary and where to get a flu shot. The hot line number is 379-2211.