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Flu season starts slightly early, but too early to tell how widespread it will be

GRAND FORKS -- Flu season may be ramping up in North Dakota, but it's still too early to tell if more people will be sick this year. Reports of confirmed influenza cases have increased in recent weeks, according to the North Dakota Department of ...

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Public health officials say there's still plenty of time to get a flu shot. Peak flu season usually arrives in January or February. Shown are immunization nurse Cheryl Wavrin of Fargo Cass Public Health, right, and Theresa Orecchia. Carrie Snyder / The Forum

GRAND FORKS - Flu season may be ramping up in North Dakota, but it's still too early to tell if more people will be sick this year.

Reports of confirmed influenza cases have increased in recent weeks, according to the North Dakota Department of Health. The state agency begins recording cases for the flu season in August. As of Dec. 24, the state confirmed 116 cases, with almost half-52-coming in the last two weeks of December.

That's more than the 70 cases confirmed at the same time last season, but other recent seasons have produced even more. Almost 1,100 cases were confirmed at that time in the 2014-15 season. In 2013-14, 270 cases were reported at that time, and in the season before that, 826 cases were confirmed.

The majority of the state's cases have been reported in Burleigh (20) and Cass (45) counties as of Dec. 24. By comparison, Grand Forks County has had three confirmed cases.

Though there have been a lot of cases in recent weeks, the timing of the increase is on par with typical years, said Jill Baber, the health department's influenza surveillance coordinator.

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"This is just a smidge early, we usually start to see cases in early January," she said. "That said, except for last season, the three seasons before that were all ramping up in December."

This year, the Type A, H3 subdivision of the flu virus will be the predominate strain, which also was predominate in the 2014-15 season, Baber said. That season the state recorded 6,443 cases compared with the 1,942 cases in 2015-16.

"It's too soon to tell the magnitude of this season," she said.

Baber said the number of people getting flu shots this year is on par with other years, though she would like to see more people get vaccinated.

"Seasons that start in December can be kind of difficult because people haven't gotten into the doctor yet," she said. "We would still recommend they get it. It's never too late as long as influenza is circulating."

The department urges people 6 months and older to get vaccinated. Health leaders say the flu can be severe for children, the elderly, pregnant women and people with compromised immune systems.

For more information, go to www.ndflu.com

Related Topics: HEALTH
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