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Flu cases may peak late this season

BISMARCK -- Though influenza cases soared one year ago, this season's strains have made little dent in North Dakota's population.The North Dakota Department of Health reports that 67 cases of lab-confirmed influenza have occurred this season thro...

BISMARCK - Though influenza cases soared one year ago, this season’s strains have made little dent in North Dakota’s population.
The North Dakota Department of Health reports that 67 cases of lab-confirmed influenza have occurred this season through Dec. 19, the most recent data available. She said 242 cases were confirmed as of the same week in 2014.
“It’s going to be a later season,” said Jill Baber, influenza surveillance coordinator for the Health Department. “We were getting a lot of cases this time last year.”
Last season peaked the week of Christmas, with more than 1,000 new cases. By season’s end, the Health Department reported its largest case count on record at 6,443. Fifty-four people in North Dakota died from the flu.
Baber said there’s a correlation between severe seasons and a high number of early cases. Nevertheless, it’s possible for a late season to be severe as well. “The influenza is unpredictable,” she said.
So far this season, no predominant strain has emerged. Last year’s H3N2 strain is present again in North Dakota. Nationally, H1N1 is also on the rise, Baber said.
She said the vaccine this year appears well-matched to the viruses present, which was not the case last season. The viruses mutated, rendering the vaccine less effective.
Health officials suggest people with the flu try to isolate themselves from close contact with others. To stay healthy, officials also recommend getting a flu vaccine and washing hands frequently.

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