5 New Swine Flu Deaths in MNSecond Wave may be waning.
By: Chris Williams, AP
MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Minnesota health officials reported five new deaths from swine flu Wednesday as the second wave of the pandemic wanes.
The state Department of Health said 26 Minnesotans have died from confirmed swine flu cases since the virus appeared in the state, with another two deaths from unspecified flulike illnesses.
Nine schools reported outbreaks in the past week, compared with 40 schools the week before. Two nursing homes also had outbreaks. So far, 1,699 people have been hospitalized with the swine flu in Minnesota.
While the numbers keep growing, the pace has slackened for the past few weeks. Health officials said that's good news, but doesn't mean the pandemic is over.
"We continue to have a number of indicators that show us that we may be coming down in terms of influenza activity in the state of Minnesota," said State Epidemiologist Ruth Lynfield. "For the third week in a row, I am happy to report, we've had fewer new schools reporting outbreaks."
However, she cautioned that other parts of the country have seen swine flu activity drop then bounce back. With that in mind, she urged Minnesotans to continue getting vaccinated, washing their hands, covering coughs and doing other commonsense things to protect themselves.
"Although it looks like activity is coming down, I don't want people to let up their guard," she said.
She said it appears the second wave of swine flu infections will be ending in December, about the same time health officials expect to see cases of seasonal flu increase. The peak months for seasonal flu are typically January and February.
Lynfield said the Health Department also is preparing for a third wave of the swine flu to hit in January and February. If the third wave and the seasonal peak line up, it could prove a challenge for doctors because treatments differ for the flu strains.
The Health Department doesn't identify those who die of swine flu, but Lynfield said each of the five reported Wednesday had a pre-existing medical condition that made them particularly susceptible. They ranged in age from 20 to 79.
Copyright 2009 The Associated Press.