Hospitals report more flu cases, even as school outbreaks ebb with the holiday

Frank Rhame, MD, Allina Health infectious disease specialist.

[Star Tribune, January 02, 2020] Minnesota hospitals admitted 117 influenza patients last week, the highest weekly total for the season, according to a Minnesota Health Department flu update on Thursday. So far, 505 people have been hospitalized for the flu, which is about the midrange for recent influenza seasons.

Most of the patients tested were infected with the B strain of the virus, which, unlike previous years, emerged early in the current season. The B strain is more likely to affect children — reflected in the surge of school outbreaks earlier this year.

“A higher fraction of adults have seen [the B strain],” said Dr. Frank Rhame, an infectious disease specialist at Allina Health.

As a result, there have only been nine outbreaks in nursing homes and other long-term care facilities this year, compared with 299 school outbreaks.

But recent holiday gatherings could mean the virus has been passed on to others who are vulnerable. “There is more intergenerational togetherness,” Rhame said. “If there is an outbreak in kids, it is going to expose adults in a holiday season.”

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