MANKATO, Minn. (AP) — Health officials say more than 900 people have been hospitalized as the national flu outbreak hits hard in Minnesota.

State Epidemiologist Brad Krier told reporters in Mankato on Wednesday that health officials are struggling to keep up with totals that increase daily. The state has five confirmed flu-related deaths so far.

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South-central Minnesota has been particularly hit hard by the flu, with higher numbers than at the height of the H1N1 outbreak in 2009.

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More than a dozen Minnesota hospitals have imposed restrictions on visitors to protect patients and staff from the flu.

Mayo Clinic Health System spokesman Kevin Burns says businesses could ease the burden on the clinics and hospitals by relaxing their absentee policies so that employees don’t need notes from their providers explaining flu absences.

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