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ND Health Dept. Bracing for More Flu Cases, Urging Vaccination

Flu cases are expected to rise in North Dakota, but there still is time to get vaccinated. (iStockphoto)
Flu cases are expected to rise in North Dakota, but there still is time to get vaccinated. (iStockphoto)
March 2, 2016

BISMARCK, N.D. - North Dakota residents still have time to get vaccinated against influenza this flu season, and they may need it. State health officials say the worst may be yet to come.

According to the North Dakota Department of Health, at least five outbreaks of influenza-like illnesses have been reported alongside more than 360 individual cases so far this season. While those numbers are lower than usual for this time of year, said Molly Howell, the department's immunization program manager, health officials just now are starting to see a rise in flu cases across the state.

"There are definitely deaths every year due to influenza," she said. "A lot of people think, "Oh, it only impacts the elderly." There are often pediatric deaths, even in North Dakota."

Howell said that's why it's important for everyone age 6 months and older to get a flu shot. She also said health officials are expecting the number of cases to spike in coming weeks. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, at least 13 children have died in the United States from the illness this season.

The CDC reported that this seasons's flu vaccine is about 60 percent effective. While some may argue that's not a high rate, the CDC said it's actually one of the most-successful flu vaccines in recent years. Howell said having some protection against the flu is better than none.

"It still will hopefully prevent serious complications due to influenza, so you might still get the flu, but it could be a milder case," she said. "And so, we really want people just to get vaccinated, if not for themselves but even for the people around them."

The state's health department website, ndflu.com, has more information on where to find local vaccine providers.

Brandon Campbell, Public News Service - ND