Flu numbers spike; officials say to get vaccinatedGetting vaccinated remains the best way to prevent the spread of influenza, state and local health officials reminded the public after this week’s sudden uptick in flu cases in North Dakota.
By: Kari Lucin, The Jamestown Sun
Getting vaccinated remains the best way to prevent the spread of influenza, state and local health officials reminded the public after this week’s sudden uptick in flu cases in North Dakota.
“We have had an increase in Stutsman County,” said Marcia Bollingberg, director of nursing at Central Valley Health District, pointing to the North Dakota Department of Health’s website Friday.
On it, the color-coded map of North Dakota showed Stutsman County as yellow, with 26 confirmed cases of the flu this season.
Twenty of those cases were an unspecified form of influenza A, and the other six were influenza B, which tends to be less severe.
As a precaution, the Jamestown Regional Medical Center began restricting patient visitation to immediate adult family members.
Other places have simply continued to keep a careful watch for flu and flu-like illnesses. Eventide at Hi-Acres has continued its efforts to educate patients and staff about hand-washing, in addition to offering the flu vaccine.
“At this time we don’t have any restrictions. We just ask that our people that are ill would stay home to minimize exposing others,” said Robin Gumke, director of human resources at Eventide at Hi-Acres.
Ave Maria Village has not yet had a single confirmed case of the flu, although several residents have been tested, reported Sue Johnson, director of nursing.
“We haven’t changed anything. We have been very lucky — we have not yet had one confirmed case of the flu,” Johnson said. “… so we’ve instituted absolutely no changes, thank God, and I hope it stays that way.
Elsewhere in North Dakota, people have not been so lucky.
Shown in red on the Health Department’s map on Friday, with 50 cases or more, were Stark, Morton, Burleigh and Cass counties along the Interstate 94 corridor, and Grand Forks, Mercer, Ward and Williams counties elsewhere in North Dakota.
“Bismarck and Fargo historically always have the biggest numbers just because of their population,” Bollingberg said.
Mary Woinarowicz, sentinel site coordinator for the immunization program with the North Dakota Department of Health, said that health officials were not yet sure whether the flu cases have peaked or whether they will continue to rise.
Preventing the flu
Vaccinations remain the best way to stop the flu from spreading, Bollingberg said, and vaccines are still available locally at CVHD and clinics.
Though it’s early in the flu season, CVHD alone has given 3,512 vaccines in Stutsman and Logan counties, according to research done by Robin Iszler, unit administrator with Central Valley Health District.
That translates to about 15 percent of the population of those counties — and those numbers don’t include the vaccines given by clinics, pharmacies and retail stores.
According to Woinarowicz, about 35 percent of North Dakotans get the flu vaccine, with slightly higher percentages for the elderly and young children — groups at a higher risk for severe complications of the flu.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that all persons aged 6 months and older are vaccinated against the flu each year.
A new vaccine is needed every year because the viruses change each year. This year’s influenza vaccine is approximately 62 percent effective, according to the CDC.
However, even when a vaccine does not prevent a person from getting the flu, it still decreases the severity of the illness and lessens the likelihood of complications such as pneumonia, inflammation of the heart and death.
The risk of those complications is much higher for people age 65 and older, young children and people who already have medical conditions.
“(Vaccination) is our most effective way of combatting the flu,” Bollingberg said. “It’s far from perfect but it’s the best we have.”
Vaccines are still available at Central Valley Health and other locations. CVHD received another delivery of flu vaccine on Friday, in fact, and its staff can administer shots to children and adults.
“And it’s not too late to get your flu shot,” Bollingberg said, adding that CVHD’s flu vaccine traffic this month is up from last January.
People should also be sure to cover their mouths when coughing, stay home if they are sick and wash their hands frequently.
Anyone who does become very sick with the flu or who has a chronic underlying condition with the flu should contact a medical practitioner about getting some antivirals, too, Bollingberg said. Antivirals are more effective early on in the course of the illness.
Sun reporter Kari Lucin can be reached at 701-952-8453
or by email at