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Stutsman flu cases still low

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Stutsman County is relatively healthier compared to other areas of the state where influenza cases have spiked dramatically over the past few weeks.

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On Thursday the North Dakota Department of Health reported 843 cases of laboratory-confirmed influenza from Dec. 19 to Jan. 9, a sharp rise from the 88 cases that had been reported from Sept. 1 to Dec. 18. The department said Burleigh, Ward, Cass, Morton and Williams counties had the highest number of total reported flu cases in the state with 223, 98, 94, 71 and 64, respectively. Stutsman County has reported 10 cases.

On Jan. 3 the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported 25 states with widespread flu activity while 20 other states are reporting regional activity.

Both agencies are urging the population to get vaccinated against the flu. Central Valley Health District unit administrator Robin Iszler said she’s seen an increase in people coming into the office for flu shots, but it takes two to four weeks for the vaccine to take full effect.

“People need to take preventative measures to stop the spread of the flu,” she said. “Stay home if you’re sick, wash your hands, cover your sneezes, go see your doctor if it lasts more than a few days and you have a persistent fever. Not spreading it is how you prevent the flu.”

Iszler said there are no special diets or exercises that can ward off the flu, but anti-viral medications like Tamiflu are very effective in some cases. However, Genentech, the makers of Tamiflu, list mild to moderate nausea and vomiting, diarrhea and stomach pain as the most common side effects of the drug.

“If you think you’ve been exposed to the flu, or someone in your family is diagnosed with it, you may want to see your health care provider about the possible use of antiviral medications … If you feel like you’re starting to get sick then those medications can’t help prevent it from becoming full-fledged illness,” Iszler said.

Flu vaccines come in three forms: injections, nasal sprays for non-asthmatic people aged 2 to 49 and subcutaneous injection.

“I haven’t seen much offering of the sub-Q, which goes just under the skin, just not as deep into the muscle,” Iszler said. “It’s still a needle, it’s just a smaller needle, and that was supposed to be the draw towards it, but we haven’t really used that method.”

Early flu symptoms can present themselves as a cold with an upper respiratory cough and stuffy nose, but Iszler said there are notable differences in symptoms.

“The flu has a high fever that lasts three to four days, where a cold usually doesn’t have a fever. That is one of the bigger differences; you can still have a sore throat, stuffy nose, but with a flu you’re more fatigued and more weak, you have body aches and pains, and with the flu you’ll probably have a headache, whereas with a cold you’ll have less of a headache,” said Iszler.

The predominant strain circulating in the state is the Influenza A 2009 H1N1 pandemic strain. Stutsman County has reported nine cases of unspecified type A flu and one case of type B. Iszler said the H1N1 is a type A strain, but isn’t always identifiable due to slight mutations. The only neighboring county that has identified the 2009 H1N1 strain is Barnes, which reported seven cases of H1N1 and three cases of unspecified type A. Barnes County shares its entire western border with Stutsman County.

Valley City-Barnes County Health Director Theresa Will said the state Health Department numbers are primarily based on how many people are testing for the flu.

“We had more providers doing the testing,” she said. “It’s not always indicative of where the most disease is, because a lot of time providers feel that after they’ve tested and they know it is out there, there’s no point in continuing to test. A lot of time providers won’t continue to test after they’ve had several positives, they’ll just know that that’s what it is … We do have a little bit higher number of elderly in our county and it could be that they are more proactive and going in and being tested more.”

Sun reporter David Luessen can be reached at 701-952-8455 or by email at dluessen@jamestownsun.com

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