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Influenza Virus Continues to Elevate in South Dakota

Jenny Chay

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The influenza virus’also known as the flua��continues to spread during the South Dakota 2014-2015 flu season.

The South Dakota Department of Health reported that the severity of this year’s flu season is moderate.

The reports stated there have been 858 confirmed cases of the flu virus so far this season, 113 of which have been confirmed for the week of Jan. 18-24. There have been 483 hospitalizations reported, and 25 deaths from the flu virus in South Dakota. The total number of deaths from influenza-like illnesses will not be finalized until after the flu season has concluded.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention stated that while the flu season occurs during winter months, the beginning and the duration of the flu season vary each year. Officials with the CDC said the season may begin as early as October and end as late as May. Since 1982, the CDC consistently showed that January and February are the peak months for influenza activity, so the virus is expected to continue spreading.

While South Dakota continues to see moderate activity of the virus statewide, certified nurse practitioner Sara Gottlob from the Black Hills State University clinic stated that there has been little activity on campus and none of these cases have required hospitalization.

There are various types of flu viruses. The CDC reported that 95 percent of reported cases this season them have been confirmed to be influenza A, or H3N2. Weekly surveillance reports from the South Dakota Department of Health have confirmed 487 cases of influenza A’representing over half of the total reported flu cases so far. Statements from the CDC said that the majority of the influenza A viruses have “drifted” from the vaccine virus. This term refers to genetic changes that occur when the virus evolves from past viruses. As a result, the CDC suggested that the ability of this year’s vaccine to protect against the virus may be reduced.

With the rate at which viruses mutate, obtaining the “right” H3N2 virus is difficult. CDC experts must choose which viruses to include in the vaccine many months in advance.

“It will still protect you from other viruses,” said Gottlob. “You may not be as ill if you have the influenza shot.”

There are also many ways people can protect themselves from getting the flu. The best prevention is washing your hands for at least 20 seconds with soap and water.

“Usually I say singing a song of some sort and running it under water the whole time with soap,” said Gottlob.

Gottlob also recommended hand-washing before touching the face or eating meals, and using hand sanitizer. Cleaning areas like door knobs, handles, and anything else that is constantly touched’such as cell phones’will also help prevent the flu and other germs from spreading. Gottlob also suggested getting plenty of rest, eating well-balanced meals, and drinking plenty of water.

The BHSU clinic is still offering free flu vaccinations while supplies last. The clinic is located at the main Spearfish campus in the basement of the Student Union in room 006. Schedule an appointment by calling 605-642-5620.

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Influenza Virus Continues to Elevate in South Dakota