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As Flu Sweeps Across Dakota County, Patients Fill Fairview Ridges to Capacity

State health department says 578 people have been hospitalized this year with the flu, and Fairview Ridges Hospital in Burnsville reports that available space is scarce thanks to the deadly bug.

This year's flu bug has been bad this year, reaching "intense" levels across the state. Dakota County is no exception, and as a result, the south metro's only major hosptial—Fairview Ridges in Burnsville—has very limited space thanks to patients sick with the flu.

Since the start of the influenza season, 578 people have been hospitalized with laboratory-confirmed influenza, according to the Minnesota Department of Public Health reports for the 2012-2013 season. This is up from only 30 people who were reportedly hospitalized for the flu in a report from last month. 

"We have been at or near our bed capacity for a few weeks now, since the flu surge started around Christmas and it's continued," said Carol Koeppel-Olson, an RN and the vice president of patient care services and chief nursing officer at Fairview Ridges. "I don't think we have peaked yet."

If you're considering getting a flu shot, here are some places in the Lakeville areas that offer the vaccine:

  • Target pharmacy
  • Both CVS pharmacies
  • Both Walgreens pharmacies
  • Both Cub Foods pharmacies
  • Rainbow Foods pharmacy

Meanwhile, Ricky Flatz, director of Urgent Care and Occupational Medicine for Health Partners, which operates the Apple Valley Urgent Care and Quick Clinic, said volumes of calls and patient visits are up 20-50 percent over typical levels at this time of year.

Flu is responsible for almost all the increase, though not everyone calling actually has the flu, Flatz noted: Some people "want to come in and get the flu shot ... or get advice on what to do."

All but a handful of U.S. states have reported a dramatic increase in flu-related illnesses. At least five Minnesotans have died, including two otherwise healthy teens: Max Schwolert, 17, and Carly Christenson, a 14-year-old St. Louis Park girl who died Tuesday.

At this time last year, flu cases as a percentage of Minnesota's population were far lower than they are now, according to data on Google's Flu Trends. (Data specific to Apple Valley and Rosemount are not available on Flu Trends, but flu cases in the Twin Cities metro are in line with the state as a whole.)

Overall in Minnesota, activity is categorized as "intense," while it was categorized as "low" at this time in 2011, according to Flu Trends.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention offers the following information:

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