Flu may have hit at school in Olmsted County
By Jeff Hansel
Post-Bulletin, Rochester MN
The Minnesota Department of Health has listed an Olmsted County school as the state’s first possible influenza outbreak for 2008.
"Week 46: One school reporting an outbreak," the Health Department’s Web site says.
But, "the same report still says we don’t have any cases yet," said department spokesman Doug Schultz.
Whether the Olmsted County cases are influenza is unlikely to be determined because lab tests were not taken, according to Larry Edmonson, director of disease prevention and control for Olmsted County Public Health.
The school, which was not named, reported a doubling of its normal illnesses, Edmonson said, leading the state to call the situation a "possible outbreak."
A possible school outbreak, according to Schultz, includes doubled absences, with 2⁄3 of the main symptoms being fever, rapid onset, and duration of illness greater than or equal to three days. A secondary symptom must also occur, such as general soreness, headache, cough, nasal inflammation, sore throat or chills.
"Staff said the Olmsted County ‘outbreak’ was most likely some sort of GI illness, but there were some students reporting respiratory symptoms so we couldn’t rule out possible influenza," Schultz said.
It’s not always easy to tell for sure whether an outbreak is due to flu, because people often think gastro-intestinal symptoms are the flu.
Regardless of whether this case is flu or not, the illness will eventually arrive. Influenza vaccine usually prevents vaccinated people from getting the flu, Edmonson said.
"Most all of the providers still have vaccine, so I would encourage people, if they haven’t gotten their shot or FluMist, that they should go in," he said.
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