For the first time in months, Minnesota has recorded no new flu-related deaths, the Minnesota Department of Health announced Wednesday in its weekly update of flu statistics.

There were also no reported outbreaks of flu-like illness at schools or nursing homes during the second week of January, another sign the H1N1 outbreak continues to fade.

In a related development, health officials say there's no sign that seasonal flu has arrived yet -- and it may not at all.

In ordinary years, the first seasonal flu cases typically show up in December and start mounting in January, said Richard Danila, deputy state epidemiologist. But so far, "there's been virtually zero" confirmed cases of seasonal influenza, he said. "It's really surprising."

Danila said he's never seen seasonal flu wait this long to make an appearance, adding: "But no one's willing to say that it won't come."

Flu experts speculate the H1N1 virus may end up wiping out other strains of flu, in classic Darwinian fashion.

"Seasonal flu didn't find a niche and still hasn't found a niche yet of susceptible people," Danila said.

That's also happened in past pandemics, when a new strain of influenza eventually replaces the old strains. "Now why that exactly happens, we don't know," Danila said. "As much as you know about flu, there's always something new."

The Health Department continues to recommend that people get vaccinated against both strains of flu, just in case. So far, more than 2.3 million doses of H1N1 flu vaccine have been shipped to Minnesota or are now on order.

Since the outbreak began last spring, 55 people have died in Minnesota with confirmed cases of H1N1 flu, and seven others have died from unconfirmed or unrelated flu infections.

More than 1,500 Minnesotans have been hospitalized with flu since September, the department said.

Maura Lerner • 612-673-7384