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'Outbreak' Of Flu Cases Seen In Twin Cities Hospitals

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) - Health workers at Regions Hospital say they're overwhelmed with people complaining of influenza-like symptoms.

"At least 100 since Monday, and that number has gone up today," said Dr. Bjorn Peterson, an emergency physician at Regions. He's calling the surge of flu cases in St. Paul an "outbreak."

"We're starting to see the outbreak develop now," he said.

At least once this week, things were so bad in St. Paul that all three downtown hospitals had to divert ambulance patients because they were overloaded with sick people.

"Obviously we can't let that happen," said Peterson. "Then there's no safety net for those who need emergency care, so all the hospitals are then forced back open to receive patients."

'Outbreak' Of Flu Cases Seen In Twin Cities

At Hennepin County Medical Center in Minneapolis, they've confirmed 160 cases in the last few weeks, and 23 people have been hospitalized.

On Thursday, the Minnesota Department of Health reported that the flu has reached every corner of the state. Sixty-four schools reported outbreaks last week, as did seven long-term care facilities.

They say this year's flu vaccine is not the best match for the strains that are going around.

"Is it possible we might have more flu cases because of that? It's possible," said Karen Martin, a health department epidemiologist.

So far there's been one flu-related pediatric death in Minnesota. It's not yet known if this week's unexpected death of an Owatonna high school student was due to the flu.

Peterson is advising anyone experiencing flu-like symptoms to stay home, drink fluids and get plenty of rest.

EMERGENCY COMPONENT - LOCAL

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