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Minnesota's first case of culture-confirmed influenza reported

Minnesota has recorded its first culture-confirmed case of influenza for the 2008-09 season in a 39-year-old man from Chisago County.

The man's illness was caused by the A (H1) strain of the virus, the Minnesota Department of Health reported Friday, Dec. 12. The virus is a good match for this year's vaccine, state health officials said.

While there have been reports of influenza cases around the state already this year, this announcement marks the official start of flu season in Minnesota.

"Identifying influenza in the laboratory helps us know which strains are circulating and tells us how well this year's vaccine will protect people from influenza and its complications," said Kristen Ehresmann, section chief for immunizations at the Minnesota Department of Health.

State health officials said there's an added incentive to get vaccinated this year. Preliminary information from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention indicates that the strain of flu virus that's currently circulating is not susceptible to oseltamivir (Tamiflu), the antiviral medication most commonly used to treat and prevent influenza.

"We will have fewer tools to treat influenza this year, so it's that much more important to prevent influenza in the first place by getting vaccinated now," Ehresmann said.

Widespread influenza activity in Minnesota usually peaks in February, but cases can occur as late as May. Flu season is off to a typical start this year; the first flu case has historically been confirmed most often in late November or early December.