3 Minnesota Deaths Linked to Swine FluST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) — Minnesota health officials on Friday reported three more deaths linked to swine flu, doubling the number of swine flu-related deaths in the state since April.
By: Martiga Lohn, AP
ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) — Minnesota health officials on Friday reported three more deaths linked to swine flu, doubling the number of swine flu-related deaths in the state since April.
All three people — a Watonwan County woman in her 40s, a Dakota County woman in her 50s and a Ramsey County man in his 50s — had underlying health conditions and died from complications, the state Department of Health said. The latest deaths happened within the past two weeks.
State epidemiologist Ruth Lynfield said the deaths don't indicate a major change in how the virus is moving through Minnesota. Health officials expected more deaths as the illness spread, she said. The state has reported 324 hospitalized cases of confirmed swine flu, while more than 130 schools have seen high absentee rates that may be linked to swine flu.
"We are not seeing any change in the overall severity or virulence of the disease," Lynfield said.
Health Commissioner Sanne Magnan said swine flu is not severe for most people but can be serious for those with underlying health issues and must be watched closely.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention doesn't have an exact count of swine flu deaths and hospitalizations nationwide, but existing reports suggest the infection has caused more than 600 deaths and more than 9,000 hospitalizations since the virus was identified in April.
The government keeps more careful count of deaths of pregnant women and children attributed to swine flu. The CDC is aware of 28 deaths of pregnant women and about 50 of children.
Minnesota is due to get its first 28,000 doses of swine flu vaccine next week — a nasal mist version reserved for health care workers. More doses are expected to follow, although the timing is uncertain. Meanwhile, the rush to make swine flu vaccine has led to delays or cutbacks of seasonal flu vaccine shipments.
Lynfield recommends the swine flu vaccine, particularly for people in high-risk groups and health care workers.
The Health Department is telling people to stay home if they get sick and stay there until 24 hours after their symptoms end without the help of fever-reducing medications. People are also urged to cover their mouths and noses when coughing and sneezing, wash their hands frequently and thoroughly, and avoid exposing others by calling ahead before visiting a health care provider. Employers are encouraged to tell sick employees to stay home.
Copyright 2009 The Associated Press.