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With only 57 cases of influenza reported throughout North Dakota, it appears the flu hasn't reared its ugly head, but could be coming along soon, hospital officials say.

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Regionally, only one case of the flu was reported in Stark County along with four cases in Morton County, according to the North Dakota Department of Health Web site.

Dennis Cannon, marketing director for St. Joseph's Hospital of Dickinson, said this year the hospital has given more flu shots than they ever have.

"This year the flu shot is doing very well," Cannon said. "Last year it didn't do as well."

Although numbers were not readily available, Cannon said he believes the strain in the flu shot more closely resembles the strain currently circulating, making it more apt to fight the flu than in previous years.

"We have not had any flu cases yet in Adams County," said Dana Andress, nurse at West River Health Services in Hettinger. "It usually hits us in January or February, usually in the eastern parts of the state and the more populated areas are usually first and then it moves this way."

Andress said 85 percent of the employees of West River Health Services received flu vaccinations this flu season, helping to combat potential sickness.

"There can be so many different kinds of flu," Andress said. "There are many things going around that are stomach related, that kind of thing. They don't all come to the hospital; they mostly stay home and try to get over it."

October or November is the best time to get flu vaccine, according to the North Dakota Department of Health Web site; vaccination is still possible in December and throughout the flu season. In North Dakota, the flu season can start in October and last as late as May.

Andress said it can be difficult to give advice to those with the flu over the phone.

"You hate to tell anybody not to come to the hospital," Andress said. "It's hard to tell how sick someone is."

The Center for Disease Control recommends that if a person is experiencing difficulty breathing or shortness of breath, pressure in the chest or abdomen or sudden dizziness while having the flu, to seek medical care immediately.

West River Health Services said if a problem with the flu does arrive; the hospital takes a proactive stance.

"If we do see a problem we usually put up signage and on the radio to cut down visitation," Ham said. "We're very proactive in vaccination, and pushing washing of the hands."

To watch the influenza surveillance, visit the North Dakota Department of Health at www.ndflu.org.

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