Health officials: 15 deaths, 'high level' of hospitalizations reported from flu

Newfoundland and Labrador Medical Association executive director Robert Thompson- Ashley Fitzpatrick

Newfoundland and Labrador Medical Association executive director Robert Thompson- Ashley Fitzpatrick

Flu is now considered widespread across Minnesota, the highest level of severity.

Person-to-person spread of the virus from coughing, talking and sneezing is the way most people end up infected.

Health Minister John Haggie says Newfoundland and Labrador has had 16 lab-confirmed cases of the flu so far this season.

The Commissioner of Public Health warned that there have been 15 flu-related deaths of people 65 and older this season, with that same age group making up the majority of the more than 450 flu hospitalizations.

"It is too early for us to know what the flu vaccine effectiveness is for the USA, and we can't make predictions based on what happened in other countries like Australia because it's not an equal comparison", she said.

Los Angeles County health officials this week reported 36 deaths this flu season, compared to 13 people for the same time past year.

A shot is recommended for people 6 months of age and older.

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Four new outbreaks in schools and 23 outbreaks in long-term care facilities also were reported last week across the state. "Everyone is seeing a sharp spike in flu cases". Day said Friday the most recent total he had for influenza cases in Kentucky ran through December 30, when 1,411 cases were confirmed. "And as you probably know, the number of confirmed, documented cases is a fraction of the total cases in Kentucky".

Haggie says there are suggestions that one of the four strains of the virus contained in this year's influenza vaccine is less than flawless.

While there have been reports the vaccine has been less effective than normal this year, Chambers said it can still help even if the vaccine was designed for a different strain.

"If you do become unwell with flu or flu-like symptoms, you should stay at home - most cases of flu are likely to be mild and can be managed at home with over-the-counter remedies", she said. The peak of the flu epidemic is not expected until the second week in February. "Flu vaccination is especially important for people who are at greater risk for complications from flu and those who live with or care for these individuals".

This year, the Health Department has given 12,957 flu vaccines, and is expecting to give more as the flu season continues.

But although there has been a spike in flu cases in Canada and the US, so far Newfoundland and Labrador has been largely spared, although half a dozen people have been sick enough to be hospitalized.

Local health providers and Kandiyohi County Public Health are emphasizing preventive habits: frequent hand washing, covering coughs and sneezes, getting adequate rest, and staying home when ill. For more information about the flu visit the CDC's website.

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