H1N1 virus claims three new deaths in MinnesotaHealth officials say the deaths serve as a reminder of the need for vigilance and prevention.
The Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) today announced that three people have died recently from complications due to infection with the H1N1 novel influenza virus.
They were a Watonwan County woman in her 40s, a Dakota County woman in her 50s and a Ramsey County man in his 50s. All died within the last two weeks and all had underlying health conditions. These cases bring to six the total of deaths related to the H1N1 outbreak since last April.
The department has been awaiting medical confirmation on the causes of the deaths before announcing them.
"Losses such as this are always difficult to bear and to understand. Our sympathies are with their families and loved ones," said Dr. Sanne Magnan, Minnesota Commissioner of Health. "For most people, the H1N1 flu is not severe; however, it can still be very serious, especially for people with underlying health conditions. That's why we continue to monitor the situation closely."
The deaths, while appearing to occur in a cluster, do not indicate a significant change in the course of the disease, health officials said. "We have expected that we might see additional deaths from H1N1 novel influenza when the illness became widespread," said Dr. Ruth Lynfield, state epidemiologist for MDH. "We know that H1N1 novel influenza, like seasonal influenza can cause severe illness and even death in some people. However, we are not seeing any change in the overall severity or virulence of the disease."
To date, MDH has reported 324 hospitalized cases of confirmed H1N1 novel influenza, 39 of these hospitalizations have occurred in the past two weeks. In addition, last week 134 schools reported to MDH that they had either five percent of their student body absent or three students in an elementary school classroom absent due to flu-like illness. It is unknown how much of that illness is H1N1 or another flu-like illness; however, health officials believe that the new strain of flu that first appeared last spring is likely playing a significant role in the upsurge.
"This flu is very widespread, and we expect to see many more cases across the state," Lynfield said. It is really important that people stay home when sick to decrease the spread of illness. We expect H1N1 vaccine to be available in the coming months and we recommend that people get vaccinated to protect themselves against H1N1 novel influenza, especially those individuals that are at high risk for severe disease from H1N1 influenza. It is also very important that health care workers get vaccinated."
To protect yourself and to help reduce the spread of influenza, MDH recommends:
Stay home from work or school – and generally avoid going out in public – if you are sick, remain home until 24 hours after your symptoms resolve without the aid of fever-reducing medications.
If you are an employer, encourage your employees to stay home if they are sick.
Limit your contact with others who may be ill.
Cover your nose and mouth with your sleeve when you cough or sneeze.
Clean your hands frequently and thoroughly – with soap and water or an alcohol-based hand rub solution.
Clean your hands after shaking hands or having other close contact with other people – before eating or preparing food, or touching your eyes, nose or mouth.
Make sure to take enough fluids while you're sick.
If you develop possible flu symptoms and you want to consult your health care provider, call before going in for an office visit. You may not need to go in, and if you do need to be seen, a time should be set up when you will not risk exposing others to influenza in the waiting room.
People at risk for severe flu or flu complications should contact their health care provider if they have flu symptoms or have been closely exposed to people with flu symptoms.
Get vaccinated for both seasonal and H1N1 novel influenza as soon as vaccine becomes available for you.
For more information about influenza, please visit www.mdhflu.com or contact your health care provider.