H1N1 now considered widespread in Minnesota - KTTC Rochester, Austin, Mason City News, Weather and Sports

By Crystal Oko

H1N1 now considered widespread in Minnesota

ROCHESTER, MN (KTTC-DT) -- State health officials say the flu is now considered widespread in Minnesota.  The federal designation reflects an upswing in influenza-like illness across the state, with at least half the state's regions reporting flu cases.

More than 10,000 Minnesota physicians began to gather at the Mayo Civic Center. They'll be here for their annual meeting until Friday.

Many of these physicans are well-versed on the H1N1 virus. 

But we talked with Dr. Van Etta she's a veteran infectious disease specialist who answered all those H1N1 questions.

Physicians gather at the annual Minnesota Medical Association meeting at the Mayo Civic Center in Rochester.

One of those doctors is Dr. Linda Van Etta, an infectious disease specialist who has worked in infectious diseases since the 1980's.

"Fortunately this H1N1 has proven to be very mild thus far," said Dr. Van Etta.

State health officials now consider the flu "widespread." Dr. Van Etta says this is because schools are back in session. More than 30 schools have reported a 5% or higher absentee rate because of flu-like illnesses. Dr. Van Etta says this virus holds the greatest risk for younger individuals.

"We anticipated that it would happen here as we got back into school. Of course, most of our schools did not go back until after Labor Day weekend and now we've had the spreading in classrooms," said Dr. Van Etta.

Van Etta says the H1N1 flu virus will peak in early October with an anticipated one-third of Minnesotans becoming ill.

But vaccines for the flu won't be available until after that.

So how do you keep you and your kids safe?

Wash your hands, cover your cough, and stay home if you don't feel good.

How worried should we be?

"I don't think we should be worried at all. I think we need to practice and prevent the spread of this," said Dr. Van Etta.

Dr. Van Etta says that even though a third of Minnesotans will get the H1N1 flu virus.

Most of the cases will be mild.

She says 99% of us that get sick will be just fine.

Groups that are susceptible are pregnant women, those with underlying medical problems and youth.

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