The flu claimed 17 more lives in Minnesota last week, while the number of new outbreaks and hospitalizations dropped to their lowest levels this year, the Minnesota Department of Health reported Thursday.
Only four schools and two nursing homes reported outbreaks in the week ending Feb. 22. At the season’s peak in January, more than 100 schools and dozens of nursing homes were reporting outbreaks.
So far, 165 people have died from complications of the flu in Minnesota since the start of the season in October — five times last year’s death toll.
Health officials said the numbers continue to rise, despite the drop in new cases, because it can take weeks to confirm that the deaths were flu-related.
In addition, 31 people in Minnesota were hospitalized with flu complications last week, down from a high of more than 600 a week in January.
Federal health officials have estimated that this year’s flu shot was only 9 percent effective among the elderly, who have been hardest hit by this year’s outbreak. But they say a flu shot is still a good preventive measure for the general public.
Symptoms of influenza include dry cough, fever, headache, sore throat, body aches and extreme fatigue.
Symptoms can come on suddenly and incapacitate a patient for several days.