Flu bug hits home

Coughing, sneezing, aches and fever. The flu bug has hit Anoka-Hennepin schools just as hard as it’s hit schools throughout the state of Minnesota.

Good news is, it’s not any worse here than it is anywhere else.

“Anoka-Hennepin staff and students are seeing widespread influenza similar to the rest of our community,” said District 11’s health services coordinator Cindy Hiltz.

But no school events have been canceled due to illness, she said.

Once an ill student’s temperature returns to normal or goes down to less than 100 degrees for 24 hours and they feel well enough to go back to school, he or she can return to a regular school day, Hiltz said.

According to Gloria O’Connell, public relations manager for Allina Health, which include Mercy and Unity hospitals, the numbers of patients hospitalized with the flu are hard to come by “because they change all the time.”

“All of our hospitals and clinics have been seeing lots of patients with flu and flu-like symptoms,” O’Connell said.

The Minnesota Department of Health reports that “there is no evidence of a new influenza virus circulating and state health officials stressed that the profile of the disease outbreak is very much in keeping with other very severe seasonal influenza years.”

Minnesota Health Commissioner Dr. Edward Ehlinger offered some perspective.

“We are clearly at a high level of influenza activities in the state, but it’s important to keep this year in perspective. What is occurring has happened before,” Ehlinger said. “This is what influenza looks like, this is what it can do. That’s why we stress every year the importance of prevention measures.”

According to O’Connell, as of Jan. 14 there have been no flu-related deaths in the area served by Mercy and Unity hospitals.

While children and the middle-aged are certainly among those getting sick with the flu, O’Connell said it seems to be hitting the elderly the hardest.

Across the state, 21 of the 27 deaths have been elderly, O’Connell said.

As far as preventing the flu, the best advice from infectious disease specialists and the Minnesota Department of Health is to try to prevent the flu by frequent hand washing, avoid touching your face and eyes, get a flu shot and stay home if you’re sick.

(For more precautions to take against the flu, see sidebar.)

To serve patients in the safest and quickest way possible, O’Connell urges people with flu-like symptoms to stay home and make an e-Visit by going online to MyChart (www.allinahealth.org/click).

“To reduce the number of people in the Allina Health clinics, we are encouraging people to use MyChart,” O’Connell said. “Adults with flu-like symptoms can schedule e-Visits in MyChart instead of going to the clinic or urgent care.”

The department of health urges community members to take care this flu season, and always.

“It is important for all Minnesota residents to do what they can to protect themselves from influenza and limit the spread of the disease. If you haven’t been vaccinated, get vaccinated. It’s not too late,” a press release distributed by the Minnesota Department of Health last week stated.


Contact Sue Austreng at [email protected]