ST. PAUL, Minn. (WCCO) - The Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) has recorded its first two cases of laboratory-confirmed influenza for the 2012-13 season.
The MDH’s Public Health Laboratory confirmed that a 25-year-old Olmsted County woman’s illness was caused by the A (H3) strain of the virus and a 12-year old Hennepin County child’s illness was caused by a B strain of the virus.
The A (H3) strain was not swine-related. Neither of the cases was hospitalized.
The official monitoring for influenza began Oct. 1, and these two cases mark the official start of full-scale monitoring for influenza in Minnesota.
Kristen Ehresmann, director of the Infectious Disease Epidemiology Prevention and Control division at MDH, says that vaccination is a wise move to prevent illness.
“Identifying influenza in the laboratory helps us know which strains are circulating and if they match the projections for this year’s vaccine,” Ehresmann said. “The best way to protect yourself and your loved ones is to get vaccinated.”
In Minnesota, hundreds are hospitalized each year due to complications of influenza. It’s one of the leading causes of death for people 65 and older, and children under five also have high rates of hospitalization.
Those most at risk from complications from influenza are pregnant women, seniors, young children and those with chronic medical conditions.
There’s an ample supply of vaccine available this year. A nasal spray is an option for healthy people ages two through 49. Intradermal injections are another option, using a small needle to inject the vaccine only into the skin layers.
Ehresmann also notes that it’s important to get influenza vaccine every year since the vaccine often changes annually, as can the strains of virus circulating around the world. The vaccine strains have been updated this year to match the strains that officials and scientists expect to circulate.
The symptoms of influenza can include a sore throat, coughing, fever, headache, muscle aches and fatigue.
Besides vaccination, there are other ways people can help avoid spreading or catching influenza:
• Do your best to stay healthy.
• Stay home from school or work if you have a respiratory infection. Avoid exposing yourself to others who are sick with flu-like illness.
• Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue whenever you cough or sneeze, and then throw the tissue away. If you don’t have a tissue, cough or sneeze into your sleeve.
• Clean surfaces you touch frequently, such as doorknobs, water faucets, refrigerator handles and telephones.
• Wash your hands often with soap and water or with an alcohol-based hand sanitizer when soap and water are not available.
You can find more information on influenza and vaccination on the MDH website.