In response to the recent 23 confirmed flu-related deaths, the Minnesota Department of Health has declared the state to be in the midst of a severe flu season.
Last week alone, 401 people were admitted to hospitals for the flu and the death toll spiked tenfold up to 27 confirmed deaths.
The MNDH announced that the number of reported hospitalizations rivals the 2009 pandemic, but also stated there is no evidence of a new influenza virus circulating.
While public health officials say they still don’t consider this year’s to be an unusual flu season, the Star Tribune reported that the outbreak is straining hospitals and clinics around the state. Additionally, the demand for the flu vaccine has grown considerably in past weeks.
Kris Ehresmann, director of Infectious Disease Epidemiology at the Health Department estimated that Minnesota was halfway through the peak of its flu season. She also predicted that the state was likely to exceed its average death toll of 30 to 40 deaths from the virus.
Since the beginning of the flu season, more than 1,100 people have been hospitalized in the state — more than twice last year’s total.
Those affected by the outbreak have been primarily over the age of 65, though 2 of 27 deaths were teenagers.
Minnesota’s health commissioner Ruth Lynfield still suggested that although over 85% of the deaths were of people over the age of 65, it doesn’t mean young people shouldn’t get the flu vaccination.
"We should vaccinate the people around them [the elderly] to help protect them," Lynfield told Minnesota Public Radio. "They won't respond anywhere nearly as well as a young, healthy person."