Keeping Track of Flu in Minnesota
Many people get sick with flu every year in Minnesota without ever seeing a doctor or reporting their illness. Therefore, MDH uses various indicators to find out how widespread the flu is in Minnesota each week, rather than trying to track every case. The MDH Public Health Laboratory (PHL) also tests selected influenza specimens to monitor which flu strains are circulating each flu season.
Hospitals report to MDH when they have a patient admitted to the hospital with laboratory-confirmed influenza. Hospitals are asked to submit specimens to MDH-PHL for influenza testing. MDH provides guidance on infection control and outbreak management, including the use of antiviral medication for treatment and prevention.
Physicians and healthcare providers across the state help to monitor influenza throughout the flu season. Sentinel providers fill out a weekly report detailing the number of patients they've seen with influenza-like illness. They also submit additional influenza specimens to the MDH Public Health Lab according to the Sentinel Surveillance program guidelines.
Facilities report to MDH when they have a suspected or laboratory confirmed influenza outbreak. Specimens can be submitted to MDH-PHL for influenza testing. MDH provides guidance on infection control and outbreak management, including the use of antiviral medication for treatment and prevention.
Minnesota K-12 schools report outbreaks of ILI to MDH when the number of students absent with ILI reaches 5% of total enrollment or three or more students with ILI are absent from the same elementary classroom. These reports, although not based on laboratory confirmation, help determine the impact of influenza on school age children in concordance with other surveillance activities.
The MN Lab System (MLS) Laboratory Influenza Surveillance Program is made up of more than 100 clinic- and hospital-based laboratories, voluntarily submitting testing data on a weekly basis. These laboratories perform rapid testing for Influenza and Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV). Significantly fewer labs, a total of seven, perform confirmatory culture testing for Influenza and RSV. Tracking the laboratory results assists healthcare providers with patient diagnosis of influenza-like illness and provides an indicator as to the progression of the influenza season as well as prevalence of disease in the community. If your laboratory is interested in participating in this program, please call 651-201-5581.
Viral isolates are subtyped to monitor for the introduction of new influenza virus strains and compared to the current vaccine subtypes. MDH-PHL performs hemagglutinin subtyping on isolates submitted from virology laboratories serving MN patients. Selected influenza isolates are forwarded to CDC for neuraminidase subtyping.