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Published December 14, 2012, 03:09 PM

65-year-old suffers first confirmed flu death in North Dakota

Reported cases in state now stand at about 200, up from 73 the week before
FARGO – The first confirmed death in North Dakota from the flu this season is a sobering reminder of the need for people to get flu shots, public health officials said Friday.

By: Patrick Springer, INFORUM

FARGO – The first confirmed death in North Dakota from the flu this season is a sobering reminder of the need for people to get flu shots, public health officials said Friday.

The death was a person over the age of 65 in the northeast region of North Dakota, said Lindsey VanderBusch, influenza surveillance coordinator for the North Dakota Department of Health.

The number of reported flu cases in North Dakota as of Friday now stands at about 200, up from 73 the week before.

Usually, only a handful of flu cases are reported this early in the flu season, which typically reaches its peak in late winter.

In a typical year, about five confirmed flu deaths are reported to state health officials, although the actual number is likely higher.

North Dakota typically has about 400 deaths a year from pneumonia and flu-like conditions.

No flu deaths have been reported in Minnesota, according to the weekly flu report of the Minnesota Department of Health.

For the week ending Dec. 8, the most recent available Friday, 30 flu cases required hospitalization. Since the flu season started, more than 100 Minnesotans have been hospitalized.

Although the flu season is getting an early start in the area, the strains of flu that have emerged respond well to the vaccine, VanderBusch said.

“There’s plenty of vaccine,” she said. “The vaccine is safe. It’s recommended for everyone.”

Dr. John Baird, health officer for Fargo Cass Public Health, said the flu season in this area usually peaks in February and March.

“So there’s plenty of time,” he said. “There’s still time to get vaccinated before it really hits hard.”

Although the production of flu vaccine involves eggs, the vaccine is safe for people with mild egg allergies, VanderBusch said.

The very young and very old, as well as people with weak immune systems, are most susceptible to the flu. To prevent spread, it’s important for everyone to get vaccinated, Baird and VanderBusch said.

Many pharmacies provide flu shots, as do private clinics and public health clinics.


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Readers can reach Forum reporter Patrick Springer at (701) 241-5522

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