Cold Weather May be Factor in High Flu Activity

Posted at: 01/18/2013 6:51 PM

 (ABC 6 News) -- The flu is now responsible for the death of 60 people in Minnesota. The state health department confirmed 33 more deaths in the past week.

In that same time period nearly 500 people were hospitalized with the flu. This years flu season has now surpassed the 2009 pandemic year with 1,842 hospitalizations.

According to Minnesota Department of Health the flu is hitting the elderly and children the hardest.

We've learned a local daycare hit hard by the flu cancelled classes three days this week.

St. Olaf Church Wee Learning Center in Austin says many children as well as staff were absent each day with flu-like illnesses.

Health officials say one possible contributing factor to the rise in cases is the weather.

"What does happen when it gets colder outside is we tend to stay indoors and we tend to spend more time closer together," says Assistant Director Dawn Beck with Olmsted County Public Health.

With an arctic blast headed our way, health officials say they expect to see more hospitalizations and deaths, but can't say for sure for at least another two weeks.

"Other places in the world that had flu before us, have started to slow down, but if you look at information that the CDC has on their website all but two states in the United States are still at widespread activity," says Doug Schultz with the Minnesota Department of Health.

The state health department says it's still not too late to get a flu shot. The season could last another month or two.

St. Olaf Church's preschool says they hope to resume classes on Monday.