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Minnesota health officials: 23 flu deaths in past week

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ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) — Minnesota health officials reported 23 flu deaths in the past week Thursday in one of the state's most severe flu seasons in years, bringing the season total to 27.

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More than 1,100 people across the state have been hospitalized with the flu this season, according to the Minnesota Department of Health. And it's been difficult for health officials to keep up. Several hospitals have restricted visitors in an attempt to protect patients and staff from the flu.

Flu activity is hitting hard around the U.S, with most states classifying it as widespread.

Kris Ehresman, the department's infectious disease director, said the last couple flu seasons were "very, very mild," while this one is "very robust and very busy." Ehresman said she doesn't want to downplay what's happening now, but she stressed that this is what a flu season often looks like.

Department data show that Minnesota recorded 67 flu-related deaths and more than 1,800 hospitalizations during the 2009-2010 season, 70 deaths and more than 970 hospitalizations in the 2010-2011 season, and 33 deaths and more than 550 hospitalizations in the 2011-2012 season.

"All of our indicators are that this is a very, very busy and bad season, but it's important to keep in perspective that this is what influenza is," Ehresmann said.

Copyright 2013 The Associated Press.

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