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N.D. reports widespread flu activity

North Dakota has seen a “dramatic increase” in reported influenza cases, the state Department of Health reported Thursday.

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As of Thursday, 843 laboratory-confirmed cases had been reported since Sept. 1, up from 88 cases as of Dec. 19. The predominant strain circulating is the Influenza A 2009 H1N1 pandemic strain.

The flu season has been “pretty typical” so far, except that the department is seeing a higher number of cases a little bit earlier than average, Immunization Surveillance Coordinator Amy Schwartz said.

According to the health department’s flu website, highly populated Williams, Ward, Morton, Burleigh and Cass counties have 50 or more lab-confirmed flu cases.

Stark County has between 41 and 50 cases, and the most of the remaining counties have between one and 10 confirmed cases.

St. Joseph’s Hospital and Health Center has seen 33 confirmed cases of the flu, said Jodi Bosch, director of the St. Joseph’s Foundation.

It is not too late to be vaccinated, and this year’s vaccination protects against the H1N1 strain circulating now, Schwartz said.

Even for individuals who’ve already contracted a strain of the flu, she said, immunization will still be effective against other strains.

The health department lists clinics providing the vaccine at

Last year, 40.1 percent of those 18 and older got vaccinated, as did 62.2 percent of those aged 6 months to 17 years.

To protect against the flu, the health department recommended frequent hand-washing, covering coughs and sneezes and staying home when sick to prevent the spread of possible influenza. Common signs of influenza include “abrupt onset of fever,” muscle aches, sore throat and cough.

“We really recommend no matter what that if you have the flu it’s important to stay home,” Schwartz said.