(MINOT, ND) – What’s been described as an ‘active flu season’ now appears to be hitting home for residents of Minot and Ward County. The North Dakota Health Department has been reporting higher than normal influenza activity this season, primarily in the southern part of the state. But recent days are seeing a higher number of flu cases in Ward County.
Casmiar Nwaigwe, MD, Infectious Disease specialist with Trinity Health, says there’s been an uptick in the number of people hospitalized with the flu. He says the rise in activity highlights the need to get a flu shot and to use common sense precautions, such as handwashing.
‘The thing to keep in mind is that we’re not that far into the 2017-2018 flu season,’ Dr. Nwaigwe noted. ‘In most years the peak doesn’t come until February or even March, so there’s ample reason to get a flu shot to protect yourself and the people around you.’
Dr. Nwaigwe says news reports claiming this season’s flu vaccine is only 10 percent effective are misleading. He says the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention studies the ongoing effectiveness of the vaccine, and at this point in the season the vaccine’s effectiveness appears to be in the mid-30s, which isn’t much lower than the overall effectiveness last season.
‘Even if it’s lower than that, it’s still worth it,’ Dr. Nwaigwe said. ‘If you end up getting the flu you’ll do better if you’ve had a flu shot. Vaccinated people tend to be less sick, and are less likely to have severe outcomes because of their illness.’
State health officials report that influenza activity is now widespread throughout North Dakota. Case counts increased again this past week, and other influenza indicators are above their seasonal baselines, according to the department’s most recent surveillance report. ‘We do not know how long it will take to reach our seasonal peak, but cases will most likely continue to increase for several weeks at least,’ the report states.
The North Dakota State Health Department and the CDC recommend that everyone six months and older should receive a flu shot regardless of age or health status.