New Minnesota hospitalizations steady for flu, down for COVID and RSV

Published 6:23 am Monday, April 8, 2024

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By Craig Helmstetter, Minnesota Public Radio News

Last month, goats tested positive for avian influenza in Minnesota. Then dairy cows tested positive in Texas, Kansas and Michigan. Finally, a person tested positive with the bird flu in Texas. With seasonal bird migration now upon us, should you be worried?

Not for your own personal health.

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While there have only been three small flocks confirmed with highly pathogenic avian flu so far this year in Minnesota, poultry farmers may rightfully worry about the safety of their flocks.

Crossover of avian flu to humans, however, is very rare according to both Michael Osterholm, director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota, and Mandy Cohen, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

In an interview with MPR News, Osterholm said: “The virus doesn’t have the right lock and key to get into our cells as it does the bird cells, and so the virus has to change some to have that happen.” And, in an interview with NPR, Cohen noted: “We have never seen a case of human-to-human spread of avian flu here in the United States.”

The Texan who was diagnosed with bird flu was in direct contact with infected dairy cows, and their only reported symptom was eye redness. Still, given the rare infection of goats and cows, public health experts are remaining vigilant over possible further spread of bird flu.

Monitoring measles

Public health officials are also remaining vigilant over possible further spread of measles — which is highly virulent among human, specifically among those who are unvaccinated. Through March 28, the CDC has reported 97 confirmed measles cases nationwide in 2024, after reporting only 58 cases in all of 2023. Minnesota has seen three cases this year, with the latest one surfacing in late February.

COVID-19 and RSV continuing to recede, but flu not going away

Influenza (the human variety), COVID-19 and respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) are still sending Minnesotans to the hospital. The good news is that the rate of COVID-19 and RSV hospital admissions continues to trend downward.

Flu hospitalizations leveled off again in the week ending March 16. In that week, 238 Minnesotans ended up in the hospital with influenza, as did 45 with RSV and 123 with COVID-19.

COVID-19 levels measured in the state’s wastewater continue to decline, 13 percent over the most recent week, according to the latest data from the University of Minnesota’s ongoing Wastewater Surveillance Study. Data from that same study, however, does put the northwest region of the state on alert, since COVID levels there have been on the rise over both the past week and the past four weeks.

For additional data on COVID-19 in Minnesota, including mortality and vaccination rates, see