The number of influenza cases reported around the state may signal the start of the flu season, according to Jill Baber, the influenza epidemiologist at the Division of Disease Control of the North Dakota Department of Health.
There are now 124 reported influenza cases in North Dakota so far this season as of last week, Baber said. The four flu cases reported in Stutsman County last week are the first since this year’s flu season started in August, with more cases reported in the county this week that will soon be added to the database, she said.
“With this many cases in one week it is usually the signal for the start of the season,” Baber said. “The numbers usually don't go down after that.”
There were no influenza cases reported in Stutsman at this time last season, she said. Stutsman County ended last year’s flu season with 170 cases.
It would be an early season if this is the start, Baber said. Increases in case numbers are more typical in mid-December or later, she said.
“The holiday season tends to exacerbate flu with people traveling and getting together and the mixing of age groups,” Baber said. “It usually starts before Christmas in a pretty bad season, so we will see what Thanksgiving gives us.”
Of the 124 reported influenza cases reported in North Dakota last week, 101 cases are Type A, Unspecified, including the four cases reported in Stutsman County. There are 12 cases of Type B, Unspecified; 10 cases of Type A, H3, and one case of Type B, Victoria, reported in other counties.
This year’s vaccine covers both Type As, she said. The quadrivalent vaccine has both Type Bs, but the trivalent vaccine has only Type B, Victoria.
As of last week the health department reported that 12 influenza cases are in children under age 10, and 43 cases in adults over age 60. Ten cases resulted in hospitalization with no reported deaths resulting from complications due to influenza.
Burleigh and Cass counties have the most reported cases with 26, followed by Morton County with 15 cases and Stark County with 13 cases. Nineteen counties reported between one and 10 cases and 30 counties reported no influenza cases so far.
“People who have not done so should get their flu vaccine as soon as possible,” Baber said.
Vaccination is the best way to prevent influenza and is recommended for everyone age 6 months and older, she said. The influenza vaccine is well-matched to the circulating strains and vaccinated people who do get sick are less likely to suffer severe complications, she said.
Other good flu prevention habits include washing hands frequently, staying home when sick, covering coughs and sneezes, she said.