By Jeff Wagner

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Travelers from all corners of the country make their way through Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport.

And besides luggage, it’s something else they could be carrying that has some people, like traveler Pat Ernst, worried.

“When you’re walking up the escalator, when you’re leaning on the tram, you’re touching things. And everything that I’m touching I’m thinking ‘do I need to make sure that I’m wiping my hands, going to wash my hands immediately’,” Ernst said.

She isn’t a germophobe, but news of the coronavirus has made her cautious even if the cases are few and far between in the United States.

But still, something to be aware of, something to think about and take precaution, if that’s what I should do,” Ernst said.

At Setzer Pharmacy in St. Paul battling influenza remains the priority.

Pharmacist Peter Haas said they’ve had people getting the flu shot as recently as last week.

Since Jan. 1, he said 70 patients have come in needing Tamiflu, which treats flu-like symptoms.

“That doesn’t mean everybody gets treated though,” Haas said.

The latest numbers from the Minnesota Department of Health show hospitalizations from the virus are up compared to this time last year — 43 people have died, including a child.

One unique aspect this flu season at Setzer is face mask sales.

“We’ve actually sold out several times and now we can’t get any more. So we’re limiting the quantity people buy,” Haas said.

He’s not sure if the spike in sales is due to coronavirus concerns or the flu. But the flu is what’s sickening people locally and the season is far from finished.

It’s why Haas is reminding people that the vaccine is still available, as well as this simple preventative method.

“Wash hands. Wash hands religiously,” Hass said.

This year’s strain of the flu continues to hit schools hard.

Last week, 87 Minnesota schools reported an outbreak, which means more than 5 percent of the kids were out sick.

So far this season, 620 schools have had an outbreak.

Jeff Wagner

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