Health department probing deaths in same familyby Lorna Benson, Minnesota Public Radio
St. Paul, Minn. — Two members of the same northern Minnesota family died this week of flu-like symptoms. The Minnesota Department of Health is investigating the deaths.
The department would only say that both individuals were between the ages of 40 and 70. But a family member says one of the victims was a 45-year-old logger. The other was his elderly father. Both lived in a small town outside of Bemidji.
Health Department spokesman Buddy Ferguson says it's not clear yet exactly what caused their deaths.
"We really haven't established at this point that this actually is influenza, although certainly that's what we're looking at because they had influenza-like symptoms," Ferguson said. "We're also looking at the possibility that there might have been a secondary bacterial infection of some kind involved in the deaths."
Ferguson says the Health Department does not believe that the deaths were caused by an unusual strain of the influenza virus.
"Obviously this is a very unfortunate situation and devastating for the people involved," said Ferguson. "Unfortunately, it isn't something that would be completely unexpected with influenza. The flu is very, very contagious. It can spread through families, and it can quite often prove to be fatal."
Ferguson says getting vaccinated is the best protection against the flu. It is not known yet whether either of the victims had received a flu shot.
Flu season in Minnesota typically lasts through the end of April.