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Worst Flu Outbreak In 4 Years Hits Minnesota

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) -- Minnesota is experiencing the worst flu outbreak in four years. Hundreds of schools across the state have been affected and now doctors and nurses are getting sick, too.

Hospitals have admitted more than 300 Minnesotans with the flu this season. Sixty of the cases happened just in the last week. There were 22 cases in the same week in 2013.

Eleven-year-old Rebekah Jones and her 8-year-old brother, Jake, have been busy practicing their lines for their St. Francis Church's Christmas play. But they didn't get to perform them. The Sunday night show was cancelled after 14 kids called in sick in morning with the flu.

Jake already had the flu a few weeks ago.

"(It was) not a fun time," he said.

He was disappointed his part as the innkeeper would have to wait. The church is postponing the show for two weeks.

"Mary was sick, Gabrielle the angel was sick, a couple wiseman, a shepherd or two. We were running out of people," Living Hope Evangelical Free Church Pastor Lon Bjornrud said.

Across the Twin Cities, doctors and nurses have been trying to keep up.

"Our volumes have been increasing, especially of our pediatric patients," Emergency Medicine Dr. Stephen Dunlop of the Hennepin County Medical Center.

Dunlop says typically every year there's a major spike in the number of flu cases -- and it's a week ahead of schedule this year.

"Every day we are having staff calling in sick from the emergency department and hospital in general, which always makes things challenging," Dunlop said.

Doctors expect it will still be a few weeks before flu cases peak.

For now, Jake says he will focus on wrapping presents. He and Rebekah are hoping the cast is healthy when the show goes on.

"Get well soon or the play won't be the same," Rebekah said.

Dunlop says the single easiest thing you can to do stay healthy is to keep washing your hands - thoroughly. He said keeping yours hands away from your mouth, eyes, and face as much as possible will also help.

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