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Flu Season Has Begun

January 11, 2013

Special to the Times-Record Harlan Bultema, Valley City, received his annual flu immunization at City-County Health District in the courthouse. Julie Hoar, R.N., is among the staff nurses available Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. to administer shots.

Flu season in Barnes County, as well as the remainder of North Dakota has begun.

As of Jan. 10, 1,077 cases of influenza have been reported statewide, with four cases reported in Barnes County. And that doesn’t reflect those who may have the flu but haven’t seen doctors.

Lori Thompson, Registered Nurse, of City-County Health District in Valley City believes the number will increase significantly as the disease spreads. Thompson also noted that test results of patients that are already infected may not be in.

This year’s flu seems to be more deadly than in previous years, according to the Centers for Disease Control. One flu death has been reported in North Dakota, with five in Minnesota, two in seemingly healthy teenagers.

According to Thompson, the very young, the very old and people with some serious health conditions are more vulnerable to death by flu and should take it very seriously.

Symptoms of seasonal flu include: fever or feeling feverish with chills (not everyone will have a fever); cough; sore throat; runny or stuffy nose; muscle or body aches; headaches; fatigue or feeling very tired; and some people may have vomiting and diarrhea, though this is more common in children than adults.

At the first sign of flu, patients should contact a physician, said Thompson. Those at risk of serious complications may be prescribed anti-viral medication.

Besides calling the doctor, Thompson suggests that anyone suspecting they have the flu should rest, get plenty of fluids, take ibuprofen for fever and body aches, and stay at home.

Flu patients who are short of breath, dizzy, or very weak should see a doctor right away.

The flu is contagious for about one day before a patient feels sick, and for about five to seven days after the patient begins to feel sick. Some people, especially young children and people with weakened immune symptoms, might be able to infect others for an even longer time.

Flu is most easily spread by hand-to-hand contact, so flu sufferers and people who don’t want to catch the flu should wash their hands frequently. And anyone with flu symptoms should stay home.

Although flu season has begun, said Thompson, it’s not too late to get a flu shot.

Thompson has seen an increase lately of people wanting influenza vaccines. Flu vaccines are still available at City-County Health District, through clinics and at some area pharmacies, though they take 10 to 14 days to work.

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