A new phone-based service is now available for Minnesotans who think they may have the flu. Nurses evaluate the health concerns of callers and discuss treatment options, using consistent criteria to determine which treatment option is most appropriate for each individual. Possible treatment options can include rest and fluids at home, a prescription for an antiviral medication, or medical evaluation in a clinic or hospital.


 


A new phone-based service is now available for Minnesotans who think they may have the flu.

As of last week, people with possible flu symptoms can call the Minnesota FluLine (MN FluLine) at 1-866-259-4655 for information and treatment options. 

Professionals are available 24 hours a day, seven days a week. People with limited English skills are being connected with an interpreter. There is no charge for the call.

Callers with flu symptoms are connected with a participating nurse at MN FluLine, or a nurse at a triage line operated by their provider network or health plan.

Nurses evaluate the health concerns of callers and discuss treatment options, using consistent criteria to determine which treatment option is most appropriate for each individual. Possible treatment options can include rest and fluids at home, a prescription for an antiviral medication, or medical evaluation in a clinic or hospital.

FluLine was developed in response to the first global influenza pandemic in more than 40 years. Officials are concerned the pandemic could overwhelm the health care system, and they believe FluLine can reduce some of the demands on the system.

Officials at the Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) reported late last week the response to the new phone-based service for people with flu symptoms has been “very heavy.” As a result, some users of the service have been reporting long wait times or busy signals. MDH officials are urging users of the service to be patient, as the agency works to expand the capacity of the system.

“This is the first service of its kind in the country, so we had anticipated the need to make some adjustments when the FluLine number went live,” said Craig Acomb, assistant commissioner of Health. “What we couldn’t have predicted was the magnitude of the response. We are monitoring use of the system very closely, and looking at a number of possible strategies for increasing our capacity.”

Acomb said the overwhelming majority of calls to the FluLine number were from people seeking help for flu symptoms.

FluLine is also expected to help decrease the spread of the flu. By providing assistance over the phone, the new service is expected to limit the number of potentially infectious people who gather in emergency rooms, urgent care centers and clinics.

MN FluLine is the first influenza triage line in the country providing statewide reach and the option of prescribing anti-virals drugs under standing orders from a physician. 

People who need information about the flu, but do not have symptoms, are encouraged to visit the flu information page on the MDH Web site at www.mdhflu.com. The Web site offers a wide range of information and resources, including an interactive flu shot clinic finder.