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State’s flu epidemic upgraded from regional to widespread

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ROCHESTER, Minn. (KTTC) - The latest numbers from the state show this current flu season has already put more than 260 Minnesotans in the hospital and claimed six lives.

This flu season has affected children at a higher rate than normal. Twenty-five percent of flu cases nationwide are from children, a much higher rate than in the past, which is normally around 10 percent.

While students may be off next week, there is still worry about them spreading the flu to relatives while on holiday break. Part of the problem, the most common influenza strain this year is a little different than normal.

"This year has been really unusual in that there is an influenza B strain that is predominating. This hasn't happened since the early 1990s but certainly happens from time to time," said Dr. Pritish Tosh, Mayo Clinic infectious diseases physician and researcher. "Influenza B outbreaks tend to be a little less aggressive than influenza A outbreaks. However, when it comes down to the individual person, they still feel pretty bad."

While influenza B strains are normally seen later in flu season, Dr. Tosh says their presence does not mean a shorter flu season. Therefore, he recommends everyone getting the flu vaccine as well as washing hands, covering coughs and staying home from work or school if sick.

Alex Tejada

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