North Dakota bitten by flu bug

The numbers might be a bit alarming, but for the most part, it hasn’t been that unusual of a flu season, only a little earlier than usual in North Dakota.

Posted Jan. 18, 2013


Pioneer Publisher & Editor

As of Friday, Jan. 11, the number of reported total influenza cases in the state was 1,612, according to the state Department of Health. Four deaths have been attributed in North Dakota so far due to flu-like complications. All four deaths were people over the age of 60.

“Flu activity is earlier than usual in North Dakota, but not abnormal,” according to information released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Influenza may not be “abnormal” in the state, but reported cases are significantly higher than the previous two years. A year ago, only 12 cases of the flu were reported at this time. At the same time two years ago, North Dakota only had 300 flu cases reported.

“It is still not too late to get a flu shot,” officials say.

Fortunately for local residents, the flu shot is still available at West River Health Services and also at White Drug. The CDC also released a new study Friday, Jan. 11 that found this year’s flu vaccine is approximately 62 percent effective. That means a person who takes the shot is 62 percent less likely to have to be treated for the flue.

Outbreaks of influenza continue to be a problem at long-term care facilities in North Dakota with 23 outbreaks reported at LTC centers. Of the 23 outbreaks, 22 were caused by Influenza A with the other outbreak caused by Influenza B.

West Rivers has asked those who are ill or showing symptoms not visit either the hospital or the extended care facility, to lessen the chance of an outbreak.

The CDC described three types of influenza virus: A, B, and C. Human influenza A and B viruses are seasonal, generally between October and May. Influenza A is the most common, but is broken down into many different subtypes. Of the 1,612 cases reported, 1,325 have been caused by Influenza A and 163 from Influenza B.

“This year we are seeing multiple varieties of flu,” said Dr. Meadows. “Through the end of the year we were mostly seeing Influenza A. Now, we are seeing Influenza B. Flu is highly contagious, a sneeze or cough can spread the flu up to six feet away and once you’ve got it, you can affect others for about a week. So if you have the flu stay away from other people. If you don’t have the flu and you see someone coughing stay away from them. Now that all the holiday parties are done maybe things will settle down a bit.”

Of the reported cases so far in North Dakota, nearly one-third are children under the age of 10. State officials list 509 of the 1,612 flu cases by that age group – 31.57 percent. The breakdown by age group:

Age group Cases

Under 10 509

10 to 19 250

20 to 29 190

30 to 39 186

40 to 49 126

50 to 59 125

60 and Up 226

Reported influenza cases spiked in North Dakota during the last two weeks of December, according to state health officials. The 50th week of 2012 reported 1 percent of the state’s population reporting flu-like conditions. A week later, the number climbed to 4.25 percent and the final week of 2012 had a 5.49 percent. The number of reported cases dipped slightly for the first week of 2013, reporting at 5.41 percent.

By raw numbers, the number of confirmed cases in North Dakota last week spiked to 1,612, jumping from 1,077 the week before. In the southwest corner of the state, the number of reported cases climbed from 136 to 209 during the same time frame. State health officials also warned that the flu in North Dakota has not yet peaked. CDC officials did think that the flu may be waning a bit in the southern states, but the flu activity there started about three weeks earlier than it did in North Dakota.

So far, in North Dakota 813 females have been reported with the flu while 799 males made the list. Overall, at least 65 confirmed flu-like cases have required hospitalization.

While state flu numbers are up, North Dakotans are in better shape than surrounding areas. The state’s neighbors have been hit much harder by the bug this flu season, according to the CDC.

This year’s flu season is shaping up as the worst since 2009 for Montana with influenza outbreaks occurring in at least half the state. Increases are expected for at least another few weeks. At least one elderly death has been reported in Montana due to flu-like complications.

In South Dakota, flu activity is earlier and occurring at higher levels than usual. According to the CDC, nine people have died from flu-related illness – all older than 75.

Minnesota has been hit very hard by the flu with 27 deaths reported, most in elderly patients.

On a national level, the flu has hit nearly every corner of the continental United States. The following are impacts on states in a regional proximity to North Dakota:

Michigan health officials claim the flu season this year is worse than previous ones and it isn’t slowing down. The hardest-hit regions are in the southwest, central and southeastern parts of the state. Four Michigan children have died from flu-related illness.

At least two children have died in Colorado from flu-related symptoms. There is a shortage of the vaccine in the state, but new shipments are expected later this month.

Idaho’s Department of Health and Welfare is reporting eight deaths from flu-related illness – all older adults – and a general increase in the number of patients with flu-like symptoms.

One child and two adults have died from flu-like symptoms in Nebraska, according to the CDC. Reported cases are up from a year ago.



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