January 16, 2013

Number of flu cases in county grows

By Kate Ruggles
Farmer Staff Writer

The flu has received a lot of attention in the media lately due not only to its epidemic level proportions, but also the severity of its symptoms. In North Dakota and across the country, high numbers of people have tested positive for influenza.
According to the North Dakota Department of Health, 1,077 cases of influenza have been reported in the state of North Dakota, and 625 of them were reported last week. However, these numbers are just a small representation of the number of actual cases because the Department of Health states that not everyone who is symptomatic will seek treatment from a physician and not everyone who presents with symptoms will be tested.
Tucker Peterson, manager of the McKenzie County Healthcare Systems (MCHS) Clinic, states that 55 cases of the flu, primarily influenza A, have been treated either through the clinic or the MCHS hospital.
“For McKenzie County, the flu is worse this year than it has been in the past. The data that we received yesterday indicated that one in three people that present to the clinic or hospital with symptoms test positive for flu,” Peterson states. “It has gone from moderate to wide-spread in terms of influenza-like illness and it seems to touch just about everyone.”
That is why MCHS and the North Dakota Department of Health are trying to prevent the spread of influenza by encouraging everyone to get a flu vaccine if they have not already had one this season.
“Anyone that has had the flu vaccine and has experienced flu-like symptoms will usually get a lesser version of the illness and will be less likely to test positive for the flu,” states Peterson. “It may be the flu, but those who get a flu shot experience less symptoms than those who opt to not get a flu shot.”
In addition, people are urged to wash their hands frequently with soap and water, use good respirator manners by covering their mouths when they cough or sneeze, and stay home from work, school or any recreational activities if they are experiencing any flu-like symptoms.
Both Peterson and the North Dakota Department of Health feel these measures will help prevent the spread of influenza.
The North Dakota Department of Health states that influenza can be a serious illness for some people and that complications from the influenza virus can lead to pneumonia and dehydration, which contribute to the deaths of nearly 400 North Dakotans annually.
The Department of Health states that most who die from influenza complications are usually older than 64 and that most children younger than 10 require hospitalization for influenza.
Peterson states that flu symptoms can include an abrupt fever, muscle aches, sore throat and cough, gastrointestinal discomfort and dehydration. Most people are contagious 24 to 48 hours before experiencing symptoms and for up to 10 days after experiencing symptoms. And, according to Peterson, once symptoms appear, they have been lasting roughly four to five days.
In addition to the elderly and children and those who come in contact with both demographics, the flu is also a concern for those living in close quarters, according to Peterson. Anyone living closely with someone else such as in the case of crew camps or any multiple occupancy dwelling, has a high likelihood of already having been exposed to the virus by the time someone’s symptoms appear.
“People living in close proximities will more easily get the flu,” states Peterson. “In fact, one of our first cases of flu involved someone who was living at a crew camp and within the next couple of weeks, several others he was living with got it as well.”
For more information about influenza activity in North Dakota, visit www.ndflu.com or call the McKenzie County Clinic at 701-842-3771.