State Health Department Reports Widespread Influenza Activity

Emphasizes Vaccination as Circulation of the 2009 H1N1 Pandemic Influenza Strain Increases 

The North Dakota Department of Health (NDDoH) today reported widespread influenza activity for the first time this influenza season and is reminding everyone that it is not too late to be vaccinated.

“In the last few weeks we have seen a dramatic increase in reported cases, and cases are being reported to us from providers across the state,” said Jill Baber, Influenza Surveillance coordinator for the Department of Health. “As of January 9, 2014, 843 cases of laboratory-confirmed influenza have been reported since September 1, 2013, up from 88 cases only about a month ago on December 19th. In addition, people with mild illness do not always go to a doctor and doctors do not always test for influenza, so we know this is only a portion of the total cases for North Dakota.” 

According to the Department of Health, additional laboratory testing of influenza samples has shown the predominant strain circulating so far this season is the Influenza A 2009 H1N1 pandemic strain, along with a small number of influenza A H3N2 and influenza B strains also circulating. This is the first year since the 2009-2010 H1N1 pandemic that this strain has been responsible for a majority of cases.

“With the 2009 H1NI pandemic strain, we see more children and young to middle-aged adults affected than is typical for flu,” said Baber. “Even when seasonal influenza activity is normal, it can be alarming to hear about healthy adults with serious disease.”

Vaccination is the most effective way to avoid the flu. The 2009 H1N1 pandemic strain is one of the strains included in this year’s seasonal influenza vaccine, and yearly vaccination is recommended, even for people who received an H1N1 vaccine during the 2009 pandemic.

“Because the immunity gained from influenza vaccination can wane, it is important to get vaccinated every year,” said Amy Schwartz, Immunization Surveillance coordinator for the North Dakota Department of Health. “It is not too late to get vaccinated, but people should get flu vaccine as soon as possible, as it takes a couple of weeks before it will prevent the flu. People who wish to be vaccinated should contact their health-care provider, local public health unit or pharmacist.”

In addition to vaccination, the Department of Health also recommends frequent hand washing, covering coughs and sneezes and staying home when you are sick to prevent spread of influenza. Common signs and symptoms of influenza include abrupt onset of fever, muscle aches, sore throat and cough.

For more information about influenza activity in North Dakota, visit www.ndflu.com, or call Jill Baber or Amy Schwartz, North Dakota Department of Health, at 701.328.2378.

Flu vaccine is still available, contact your health care provider or pharmacy. Fargo Cass Public Health also has flu vaccine. Call 701-241-1383 to schedule an appointment.

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