MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Minnesota is dealing with a widespread flu outbreak.
The Minnesota Department of Health reports the outbreak started in southern Minnesota, but now they are seeing an increase in cases in central Minnesota and the Twin Cities metro area.
Hennepin County Medical Center officials say its doctors are treating 25 out of about 165 patients hospitalized for flu in the state.
There is a lot of information out there encouraging people to get the flu shot. Tracy Holtan wanted to know more about what to do when flu symptoms first hit.
“When we had babies, I would wake up 20 minutes before they’d start to cry even though they’re across the room,” Holtan said. “There’s an instinct that you have or know about your children and when they’re sick.”
But she says the symptoms of her 13-year-old daughter, Bella, were unlike anything she’s seen.
“I just feel more dizzy, and I get winded,” Bella Holtan said.
Her flu test came back positive, and it took steroids to help her recover
Dr. David Hilden says with widespread flu in Minnesota, the test becomes less important than the symptoms.
“If the test is negative, they’re probably not going to believe it because the false negatives of the test are a little bit too high at this time of year,” Hilden said.
Holtan wondered which specific strain her daughter has, since the nasty cough seemed so unfamiliar.
Dr. Hilden says patients don’t need to know, but bigger hospitals and clinics track it and report to the health department. That helps determine what next year’s vaccine may look like.
“It goes to a more specific lab that grows it in a culture, and that’s what takes a great, long time – and that’s where they come up with the strains,” Hilden said.
But he says this year’s vaccine doesn’t cover the dominant strain as hoped.
“The virus has changed since the vaccines were made, and it does take many months to make the vaccine,” he said.
That’s why Dr. Hilden recommends children and the elderly go to the emergency room when a fever strikes.
He says some doctors will prescribe an antiviral without even testing for the flu for high-risk patients.
“Parents need to know what to do, when to do it, what to watch for,” Holtan said.
Antivirals from the doctor are usually only effective in shortening the duration of the flu if started within 48 hours of when the symptoms first occur.
Dr. Hilden says if you are worried about the flu, getting into the doctor right away is a safe bet, even if you’re not dealing with a child or an elderly person.
Bella Holtan couldn’t get the flu shot yet because she had an ear infection, but her mom says she will when she’s healthy.
Over-the-counter flu remedies help with symptoms, but won’t shorten the amount of time the flu lasts.