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Rochester families hit hard by flu

Rochester families are being hit hard by influenza.

"I have a total of 19 schools reporting higher rates of absentees due to influenza-like illness, all in Rochester," said Linda Haeussinger, public health manager at Olmsted County Public Health.

The number of cases in general is ramping up, especially in the Rochester region.

"Yes, there has been a definite increase in the number of influenza cases in the past few days," said Dr. Priya Sampathkumar, a Mayo Clinic infectious disease specialist and the clinic's point person on flu. "Most have been in the outpatient setting, also a few hospitalizations for flu. This is consistent with increased flu activity across the state."

Influenza is a viral illness. Symptoms include: fever above 100 degrees; achy muscles, especially of the back, arms and legs; chills and sweats; headache; dry cough; fatigue; weakness; and nasal congestion, according to MayoClinic.org .

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Flu season typically begins in late December or early January in Minnesota, and "Flu season may be here early this year," Sampathkumar said.

Jeremy Salucka, a spokesman for Olmsted Medical Center, said the volume of patients exhibiting influenza-like symptoms at OMC from Nov. 27 through Dec. 2 is "about twice as high as the same period in 2013."

Haeussinger said that in addition to sick kids at schools, she has a report of two confirmed cases of influenza A at one local long-term care community.

So far, she said, the flu subtype that's circulating has not been identified and it's not yet known if it's covered by this year's vaccine.

Salucka, at OMC, said it's still possible to get vaccinated against influenza, although it takes two weeks to build immunity once vaccinated.

"We have plenty of all forms of the vaccine in stock," he said.

If you want to get vaccinated, ask your health provider at either OMC or Mayo, check with Public Health or stop in at a local pharmacy or store that offers vaccinations.

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