(MINOT, ND)—Trinity Health officials are urging people to get their flu shots before flu cases start to rise again across North Dakota. Last week, the State Health Department reported a welcome drop in the number of weekly flu cases. However, the total number of cases this year is still more than double that of last year.
Dr. Casmiar Nwaigwe, an infectious disease specialist, says although most cases so far have been localized in Benson and Ramsey counties in northeast North Dakota, that could soon change. “It’s just a matter of time before we start seeing more cases locally. We all travel and bring microorganisms back with us. This temporary lull in cases should give everyone the incentive to get a flu shot now.”
State Health officials say activity will most likely increase again at some point in the coming weeks, and this break in cases is a great time for those who have not been vaccinated for flu yet this season to get vaccinated.
Terry Altringer, Trinity Hospital Pharmacy’s Clinical Services Supervisor, says getting immunized is the right thing to do. “We have a tendency to think that getting a flu shot is just for ourselves, but the way the virus is communicated – from person to person – we’re also protecting the people around us such as infants or immunocompromised adults who are vulnerable to developing complications. A lot of people die every year from the flu. It’s not just about protecting ourselves, but protecting others.”
He pushed back on the misconception that the flu vaccine can give you the flu. Flu vaccines are made with viruses that have either been inactivated and therefore not infectious, or with a single gene from a flu virus that produces an immune response without causing infection. (Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention)
Altringer says people who report getting sick after receiving a flu shot are likely victims of timing: they developed an infection just before getting the shot or before it reached its full effectiveness (about two weeks); they picked up a virus that mimics the flu; or they came down with a flu strain that the vaccine doesn’t cover. In any case, getting immunized is likely to lessen the effects and duration of whatever virus is contracted.
Altringer says while it’s too early to make a definitive judgment about the current vaccine’s effectiveness, this year’s flu vaccine appears to be a better match than last year for the viruses that are currently circulating.