Early 'spike' reported statewide not as dramatic, yet, in Crookston.

    The flu is once again active in Minnesota. However, unlike most years, the number of flu victims has surged in the last week, keeping hospitals on their toes as they try to keep the virus from further spreading across the state.

    With more than 120 Minnesotans being hospitalized throughout the week of Dec. 16-21, this year’s influenza season is being compared to the 2009 H1N1 pandemic. Besides the large amount of ill people showing up at emergency rooms and clinics, what is surprising health officials the most is the early occurrence of the virus.

    In Crookston, however, Stacey Bruggeman of Riverview Health said that while activity is picking up, it is on track with what RiverView would expect for this time of year. "We have seen an increase in patients presenting with influenza-like symptoms in our patient settings," said Bruggeman. Yet Bruggeman added that Riverview has not had any hospitalizations related to confirmed influenza so far this year.

    Sarah Reese, director of Polk County Public Health, said that the flu spike is always talked about and that it always goes around. With that being said, Reese and the PCPH staff recommend that everyone go out and get their flu shot if they have not yet done so. “This especially applies to children and people with compromised immune systems,” said Reese.

    Along with getting vaccinated, Reese also mentioned some simple ways that people can help protect themselves from catching the flu including: covering your cough, washing your hands frequently with soap and water and staying home when sick.

    Terry Ristinen, the district’s Bemidji-based epidemiologist, noted that when it comes to influenza, although statewide data is tabulated, not every case is reported. “For the cases that have been reported, from our surveillance data samples, the same percentage of positive tests have been found in this part of the state as the rest of the state, making this a statewide issue,” said Ristinen. “So yes, it is here, it’s all around us.

    “Long-term care and school facilities have reported influenza symptoms in this region,” Ristinen continued. People are being hospitalized all over the state, and, according to the Minnesota Department of Health, two people have died from influenza this winter.

     Similar to what Reese said about limiting your chances of getting the flu, Ristinen said, "ILI (influenza-like illness) is statewide, but that's not the only message we want to get out there." Ristenen stressed how it's not too late for people to get vaccinated, and should they choose to do so it should be done as soon as possible, considering that it takes up to two weeks for antibodies to go into place. "Influenza is so easily transmitted, especially after the holidays" said Ristenen.     

    Attempts to get some flu-related information from Altru Clinic-Crookston were unsuccessful as of press time Thursday.