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Minnesota Department of Health urges vaccines, precautions amid jump in respiratory infections

Influenza, COVID-19, and RSV case numbers have surged in Minnesota following the Thanksgiving holiday, Minnesota Department of Health experts said on a call with reporters Tuesday.

A doctor examining a child with an RSV infection.
A doctor examining a child with an RSV infection.
REUTERS/Benjamin Westhoff

Influenza, COVID-19, and RSV case numbers have surged in Minnesota following the Thanksgiving holiday, Minnesota Department of Health experts said on a call with reporters Tuesday.

Data from the Minnesota Department of Health suggest the share of people visiting clinics with flu-like symptoms has jumped early this year. When it comes to COVID-19, data from the Metropolitan Council show viral particles in wastewater on a slow march up for weeks. And as any parent with little kids can tell you, RSV — a respiratory virus that tends to be more severe in small children — is traveling far and wide.

Source: MDH
The surge in these respiratory illnesses has caused low bed availability in hospitals, a nationwide shortage of flu antiviral medicine, and hundreds of outbreaks in schools and senior living centers.

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Data from MDH show available ICU hospital beds for adults and children available dwindling, particularly in some regions of the state.

beds available last week
Adult ICU bed availability by region last week. Source: MDH
MDH encouraged Minnesotans to do everything they can on an individual level to prevent the spread of these illnesses before and during the holidays.

That includes staying up-to-date on vaccines.

“This is another reminder, as we head into the December holiday season, how important it is to get protection up to date before gathering with loved ones. The updated bivalent booster that is now available for Minnesotans aged 6 months and up is important because it restores protection that may have waned and provides the best defense we have against the currently circulating variants,” said State Epidemiologist Dr. Ruth Lynfield on the MDH call. According to MDH data, less than 20% of Minnesotans are up to date with their COVID-19 vaccines. 

“The key is to do it now. In order to give time for immunity to build before the holidays are in full swing,” Lynfield said.

Here is what the Minnesota Department of Health recommends for staying safe this holiday season: 

  • Stay up to date on vaccines (bivalent COVID vaccine, flu vaccine) 
  • Consider wearing a well-fitting, high-quality mask in public (N-95, KN-95) 
  • Stay home and avoid close contact with others when sick
  • Get your free at-home COVID tests from the state of Minnesota
  • Avoid sharing cups or utensils if symptomatic
  • Limit time in crowded indoor spaces
  • Cover coughs and sneezes
  • Wash hands often with soap for 20 seconds
  • Use alcohol-based hand sanitizer
  • Eat healthy for a strong immune system
  • Take steps to ventilate the home and workplace