By Robb Murray
Free Press Staff Writer
MANKATO — Despite the most recent reports of more flu-related deaths, southern Minnesota epidemiologist Brad Krier says the flu season is all but over.
There were two more deaths reported recently, but Krier said the reports don’t necessarily mean the deaths came from recent flu cases.
“We’re always a little bit delayed on those reports,” he said.
The Minnesota Department of Health says 13 people were hospitalized with laboratory-confirmed influenza last week. Since the start of the flu season, 3,041 people have been hospitalized, but the weekly rate has sharply dropped off since peaking in January.
No nursing homes and only one school reported confirmed outbreaks of the flu last week.
Early in the flu season, southern Minnesota was declared a so-called “hot spot” for influenza, a distinction that never really waned throughout the season.
“When you look at our numbers,” Krier said, “our region still had the highest rate per 100,000.”
But the peak is over. In fact, it’s been over for months. Flu cases topped out in January and by the end of February, the season, for all practical purposes, was basically over.
Krier said the strain did not prove to be as problematic as the H1N1 strain of 2009, which was declared a pandemic strain. That year saw small follow-up peaks in April and June, a phenomenon that is not occurring with this strain.
The vaccine, as has been reported throughout the season, proved to be about 60 percent effective.
Now, state departments of health have been turning their attention to the situation in China with the new strain of avian flu, H7N9.
“When we see new strains, we get on the alert and make plans,” Krier said. “It’s just one of those things that always keeps us on our toes.”
So far, he said, there have been no reported cases in China of this strain of flu spreading from person to person. There have been 33 cases reported in China so far.
This report contains information from The Associated Press.