- Associated Press - Monday, February 8, 2016

MANKATO, Minn. (AP) - A year after Minnesota and much of the nation was hit hard by influenza, the virus is having less of an impact on residents throughout the state.

However, infectious disease experts warn that the 2015-2016 flu season isn’t over, so an outbreak could still happen.

Kathleen Frederick, head of infection prevention and control for Mayo Clinic Health System in the Mankato region, isn’t aware of any hospitalizations in the area, she told The Free Press (http://bit.ly/1SE7KoI ). But three people in the Mankato area have tested positive for influenza in the past two weeks, but none were sick enough to require a hospital stay.

According to the Minnesota Department of Health’s influenza database, there were 92 flu-related hospitalizations statewide through the end of January.

Last year, more than 4,300 people in Minnesota were hospitalized with complications from influenza, more than 700 schools in the state reported outbreaks and 10 children died.

Minnesota Department of Health’s South Central region, which covers a slightly broader area than Mayo’s region, had one hospitalization so far this fall and winter, compared to 315 hospitalizations during the 2014-2015 flu season.

Although Frederick said she “would characterize this as a mild flu season,” both she and Karen Martin of the Minnesota Department of Health’s vaccine and preventable disease unit were apprehensive to consider this the mildest flu season in memory.

“We’re afraid to be too hopeful, because you never know what’s going to happen,” Martin said.

Flu season takes place from October to mid-May, according to the Centers for Disease Control, but influenza can circulate throughout the year.

“We’re hoping for a milder season, but we’ll have to see what happens in the coming weeks,” Martin said.

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Information from: The Free Press, http://www.mankatofreepress.com

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