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 or contact their health care provider, local public health department, or pharmacist for informatio­n about influenza vaccine availabili­ty in their area.

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