Duluth Flu-Related Deaths Increase, Northlanders Crowd Flu Shot Clinic

By KBJR News 1

January 11, 2013 Updated Jan 12, 2013 at 2:52 PM CDT

Duluth, MN (NNCNOW.com) - There have been at least eight flu–related deaths in Duluth so far this year and many more across the country.

Seven of those deaths in Duluth have been at Essentia Health, where a flu shot clinic Friday brought out more than 300 people to get vaccinated.

"The number of cases are just really alarming and the seriousness of it," said Rhonda Strum, who brought her six-year-old son to get vaccinated.

So many people came to the first day of Essentia's flu vaccine clinic that they had to expand booths to the clinic's upstairs.

Meanwhile, at the hospital, so many people are being treated for flu symptoms that beds in the ICU are in short supply.

"It continues to have an impact on our system, especially our downtown hospitals, in terms of critical care beds and in–patient care beds," said Infectious Disease Specialist Dr. Timothy Burke.

Burke compares this season's flu outbreak to 2009's H1N1 scare. He says while the numbers are high for this early in the season, it isn't necessarily surprising. When dealing with the flu, he's learned anything can happen.

"We at Essentia are continuing to prepare for additional challenges," said Burke.

Meanwhile, while people continue to seek the flu vaccine, Dr. Burke says it isn't likely that they'll run out anytime soon.

Essentia Health will continue to provide flu shots at their clinic in Duluth Saturday from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Dr. Burke says that while getting vaccinated is one of the best things you can do to prevent getting the flu, it isn't one hundred percent guaranteed. He says it is important to keep washing your hands and covering your cough to try to keep germs from spreading.

Written for the web by Jennifer Austin.