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Hints of flu season here

Southwest North Dakota may be seeing the beginning of flu season and the state health department reported the first case of confirmed H1N1 within the last week, but details are unknown.

"I think it's just starting," said Sherry Adams, administrator for the Southwestern District Health Unit in Dickinson. "Normal flu seasons are usually January, February, March -- that's when they start peaking."

SWDHU, along with state officials, have been tracking flu numbers and about three weeks ago, 11 cases were confirmed.

"And those are confirmed cases," Adams said. "There's probably more flu, these are just people that went to the doctor."

As of Wednesday, 80 cases of influenza were confirmed statewide, including one death of a child younger than age 10, according to a North Dakota Department of Health press release.

Of the 80 cases, 28 have occurred in children younger than 10, according to the release.

Four of the eight counties SWDHU covers reported influenza cases, including Adams, Billings, Hettinger and Stark counties, with Morton and Burleigh counties reporting the highest number of influenza cases state wide, according to an e-mail from Adams.

Compared to this time last year, there were more cases due to a pandemic.

"Last year we just had so much flu because it was a new strain," Adams said. "In October, November we had over 3,000 cases probably about this same period of time so a normal flu year is probably anywhere from 1,500, somewhere around there."

Adams said it is normal to have several thousand cases a year.

However, the number of people receiving flu shots this year is slightly down, Adams said.

"Initially there was a lot of nice weather so normally we start flu vaccinations in October ... people weren't thinking flu," Adams said. "But, I think the thing people really forget ... is that everybody should get a flu shot ... particularly because H1N1 is still circulating."

H1N1, a type of influenza also known as swine flu, particularly hits a younger age category, even those who are healthy, Adams said.

All but 11 of the 80 flu cases statewide are in those younger than the age of 49, according to the e-mail.

The Associated Press reported Monday that state Health Department spokesman Kirby Kruger advised KVLY-TV that the first case of H1N1 was reported within about the past week, but details haven't been released.

Candace Kessel, infection preventionist for St. Joseph's Hospital and Health Center in Dickinson, said the facility has had more patients coming in with flu-like symptoms in the last two weeks, but no flu hospitalizations have occurred.

Kessel said the hospital is seeing mainly type A influenza.

Individuals can take precautions to lessen chances of contracting the flu, including getting a flu vaccine, covering the nose and mouth with a tissue if coughing and sneezing, practicing good hand hygiene and avoid touching the eyes, nose and mouth, Kessel said.

Confirmed flu cases in SW ND as of Wednesday by county


H1N1 (A Novel) - 0

A (unspecified) - 1

B - 0


H1N1 - 0

A (unspecified) - 1

B - 0





Golden Valley



H1N1 - 0

A (unspecified) - 1

B - 0




H1N1 - 0

A (unspecified) - 2

B - 0

Information courtesy of the North Dakota Department of Health