Minnesota epidemiologist: ‘We will have cases’ of new flu


Minnesota has its first suspected case of the new flu that has killed more than 100 people in Mexico. The affected person, who is associated with Rocori Middle School in Cold Spring, is “recovering at home” and “is responding well,” state officials said at a news conference Wednesday morning. The person did not travel to Mexico but had contact with someone who did.

Gov. Tim Pawlenty said both the school and adjoining St. Boniface Elementary School are closed today, on the local superintendent’s orders after conferring with Pawlenty.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta is testing samples from the Minnesota case and is expected to say today whether it is indeed the flu that the CDC calls “swine flu” but state officials prefer to call “H1N1 novel influenza.”

Whatever it’s called, state epidemiologist Dr. Ruth Lynfield said this influenza is “notorious for changing” — and that change could mean becoming more — or less — virulent.

Minnesota is prepared for this flu outbreak and is moving aggressively to deal with it, the officials said. The state is adding 200,000 doses of anti-viral medicine to its stockpile of 400,000 doses, and distribution to regional hospitals is beginning today. Conference calls are going on throughout the day with local public health, agencies, clinics and others throughout the state’s medical community.

Referring to the state’s stoic reputation, Lynfield said “Minnesotans don’t panic. That’s what I like about working in this state.”

Here are some of the things officials recommend that Minnesotans do:

Stay home when possible.

Stay away from people who appear to be sick

Take care of yourself.

Get adequate sleep.

Wash hands frequently, and for long enough to sing “Happy Birthday” twice.

Call your doctor if you have flu-like symptoms such as a cough and temperature.

Stay informed by visiting state and federal Web sites devoted to the outbreak.

Call the State Department of Health with questions.

Minnesotans should not do these things:

Don’t run out and purchase anti-viral medicines.

Don’t stop eating pork.

Don’t panic.

“We’re all in this together,” Lynfield said. “We will get through this.”

Just how together are we? The governor is forgoing one of his frequent out-of-state trips, cancelling a scheduled speech at Harvard University tonight. The topic of his talk was “The Need to Transform America’s Education, Healthcare and Energy Systems”

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