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March Mania

Flu season off to slow start in North Dakota

A University of Jamestown student nurse practices flu vaccinations Thursday, Nov. 8, at Central Valley Health in Jamestown. Tom LaVenture / Forum News Service

BISMARCK — This flu season is off to a slower start than last year but probably is comparable to two years back, according to Levi Schlosser, flu surveillance coordinator for the North Dakota Department of Health.

"It is definitely slower than last year," he said. "But we're also seeing increases every week."

The currently weekly influenza update, including information through Nov. 2, indicates 90 cases of flu so far this season compared to 308 at the same point last year. The normal flu season runs from the first week of October through May, although North Dakota flu activity usually peaks from January to March each year, Schlosser said.

So far, 59 confirmed cases of Type B flu have been reported compared to 29 cases that have been identified as Type A. This differs from the previous three years when Type A flu was the predominant strain across North Dakota.

"We always see a little of both," Schlosser said. "This year (the amount of Type B flu) may be a coincidence at this point."

Schlosser said people with the flu can't tell the difference based on symptoms or how the illness progresses. Only a lab test can determine which type of flu the patient has.

The difference, according to Schlosser, is in the population the influenza strikes.

"Type A flu tends to affect children and younger adults," he said. "Type B is more across the population."

Common symptoms for both types of flu are the same and include fever, cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, body aches, headaches and fatigue. The best protection for either type of the flu is a flu shot, according to Robin Iszler, administrator for the Central Valley Health District in Jamestown.

"The current flu shot included two Type A strains and 2 Type B strains," she said. "We're still working on determining whether we have a good match in the flu shots this year."

Other precautions include vigorous hand washing, covering your mouth when coughing and staying home from work when ill, Schlosser said.

It is not too late to get a flu shot, Schlosser said. It takes about two weeks after the shot to establish immunity, which then guards the person against the flu for between four and six months, he said.

Iszler reported that there have been some delays in delivery of flu vaccine. She suggests people call their medical providers to confirm availability.