January 8, 2015
Minnesotans urged to fight influenza, other viruses by staying home when ill
With the state in the midst of a particularly tough influenza season, health officials are urging Minnesotans to protect themselves and others by staying home when they are ill.
The latest weekly influenza report published by the Minnesota Department of Health shows influenza activity continuing at a high level in the state. Outbreaks in long-term care facilities are increasing, hospitalizations due to influenza remain high, and schools continue to see absences due to influenza-like illness. In addition, the state is dealing with a large number of norovirus outbreaks this winter. Since Nov. 1, 2014, 43 outbreaks have been reported to the department, bringing the second biggest start to the norovirus season in 15 years, health officials said.
According to Minnesota Health Commissioner Dr. Ed Ehlinger, these illnesses can hit particularly hard among school kids and the elderly in long-term care facilities. One of the best ways to protect these more vulnerable groups is by keeping ill people home for the duration of their illness.
"Every winter we encounter problems with influenza outbreaks or other infectious disease in schools and long-term care facilities, but this year we seem to be getting hit harder than normal by influenza and norovirus," Minnesota Health Commissioner Dr. Ed Ehlinger said. "We know that some of this activity can be reduced if people stay home when they are feeling ill. It may not always be convenient, but it is an important step in reducing the spread of these diseases."
Minnesotans can also do their part to slow the spread of diseases by washing their hands thoroughly with soap and water for 15-20 seconds after coughing or sneezing in them, after going to the bathroom and before eating or preparing food. Also, you can protect yourself and those around you by getting vaccinated for influenza. It’s still not too late, health officials said.
Influenza is a respiratory infection that tends to come on suddenly. Symptoms include sore throat, coughing, high fever, headache, muscle or body ache and fatigue. People who become severely ill with influenza-like symptoms should see a physician. Norovirus, sometimes mistakenly referred to as "stomach flu," can cause nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal pain, headache, body aches and mild fever. Symptoms usually last from one to three days, but most healthy people recover on their own.