Valley City Times-Record
Influenza cases increase in North Dakota prompting vaccination reminder
BISMARCK, N.D. – The North Dakota Department of Health and Humans Services (HHS) is encouraging all North Dakotans to choose to be vaccinated against influenza. Nationwide, and in North Dakota, there has been an increase in influenza in recent weeks. This increase in influenza cases has happened in conjunction with an early increase in other respiratory viruses, especially among children.
Children younger than age five, individuals with certain chronic medical conditions, those who are pregnant, American Indians, and those older than age 65 are at higher risk of developing serious complications from influenza. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is already reporting two pediatric deaths in the United States due to influenza this season.
Vaccination is the best way to protect against influenza infection and severe illness. Everyone ages six months and older should act now and get vaccinated. Influenza vaccination rates are lower this season than past seasons for both adults and children.
In North Dakota, the current influenza vaccination rate for children ages six months through four years is only 20.3%. The rate for adults 65 and older is 41.4%. Before the COVID-19 pandemic, the rate for children six months through four years of age was 52%, and the rate for adults aged 65 and older was 54.5%.
Influenza is a respiratory disease that most commonly causes fever, cough, sore throat, headache, chills and body aches. In North Dakota, influenza activity begins to increase in the fall and typically peaks between January and March.
One hundred and eight-two influenza cases have already been reported in the state for the 202223 season, as well as four influenza-related hospitalizations.
“Influenza activity is increasing to high levels in other areas of the United States,” says Influenza Surveillance Coordinator, Levi Schlosser. “Early high levels of influenza activity have occurred in North Dakota during previous seasons and are concerning when other respiratory viruses are also circulating widely.”
Influenza spread in the community can increase quickly. It can take up to two weeks to have the full benefit from the vaccine, so now is the time to ask your health care provider about the influenza vaccine.
“Vaccination helps prevent influenza including severe outcomes,” said Immunization Director, Molly Howell. “Preventing influenza also prevents missed workdays, doctor appointments, and testing because of symptoms. Influenza vaccination protects against influenza and reduces the risk of becoming co-infected with other respiratory illnesses such as COVID-19 and RSV.”
During 2019-2020, the last flu season prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, flu vaccination in the United States prevented an estimated 7.5 million influenza illnesses, 3.7 million influenza-associated medical visits, 105,000 influenza-associated hospitalizations, and 6,300 influenza-associated deaths.
North Dakotans are encouraged to visit www.vaccines.gov or contact their health care provider, local public health department, or pharmacist for information about influenza vaccine availability in their area.