WebMD ranks the Twin Cities as the 3rd-sickest community in the country
ST. PAUL -- Achoo! The Twin Cities have a cold and the flu. WebMD this week ranked Minneapolis and St. Paul together as the third-sickest city in the country behind Madison, Wis., as No. 1 and Cincinnati as No. 2. The health website says national...
ST. PAUL -- Achoo! The Twin Cities have a cold and the flu.
WebMD this week ranked Minneapolis and St. Paul together as the third-sickest city in the country behind Madison, Wis., as No. 1 and Cincinnati as No. 2.
The health website says national year-to-year data show 2014 to have the highest levels of cold and flu symptoms ever recorded, and those numbers are about to peak.
According to WebMD, “the latest cold and flu predictive data … shows that this year’s holiday season will have one of - if not the worst - cold and flu levels ever.”
The website’s “cold and flu map” is updated every four weeks and reflects self-reported information from users nationwide reporting symptoms within its Symptom Checker web tool.
Adding to the misery, the Minnesota Department of Health said Monday that the norovirus, commonly referred to as the stomach flu, is hitting Minnesota hard this season.
The illness can be spread from person to person, and health officials encouraged Minnesotans to protect themselves by taking such common-sense precautions as careful hand washing and food preparation.
About 40 outbreaks of norovirus illness have been reported to the Health Department since the beginning of November in settings ranging from private gatherings to schools, restaurants and nursing homes.
Dr. Kirk Smith, who heads the department’s Foodborne Diseases Unit, said patients can spread the virus for several days after their recovery. To play it safe, he said, they should refrain from preparing food commercially or for their family for an additional 72 hours.
In St. Paul, health officials say they’re seeing evidence of WebMD’s findings.
“We’re seeing between 30 and 50 patients a day with influenza-like symptoms - fever, cough, running nose,” said Abby Willaert, physician assistant in the emergency department at Regions Hospital.
HealthPartners, which operates Regions, maintains an online clinic called VirtuWell, where anyone experiencing illness can log in, list their symptoms and get a diagnosis and prescription from a nurse practitioner. Follow-up calls are often part of the protocol.
“Our online diagnosis clinic, VirtuWell, has been seeing some incredible numbers - 16 times more calls than they did at this time last year, most of it flu-related,” said Kristen Kaufmann, a spokeswoman for HealthPartners.
Mary Nesvig, medical director of the West Side Community Health Services on Cesar Chavez Street in St. Paul, said her clinic started seeing the first cases of Influenza A in the first week of December and has confirmed 27 since then.
Usually, she said, the first flu cases appear in November, and about 30 are confirmed over the next three months - not in the next three weeks.
“I think the sudden onset is what sets us a little bit apart this year. There wasn’t a trickle effect,” Nesvig said. “It was a little later start, and then it came on pretty strong.”
For information, including tips on care and how to reduce the chances of the flu, go online tomdhflu.org .
The Pioneer Press is a media partner with Forum News Service.
Minneapolis/St. Paul ranks No. 3 this week on WebMD’s list of the “Top 10 Sickest Cities” in the U.S.
- Madison, Wis.
- Minneapolis/St. Paul
- Norfolk/Portsmouth/Newport News, Va.
- Birmingham, Ala.
- Dallas/Fort Worth
- San Antonio
- Louisville, Ky.