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Flu cases nearly double across South Dakota

PIERRE, S.D. -- Flu season has taken flight in South Dakota. For the week ending Jan. 7, 36 lab-confirmed cases of the flu were reported statewide, nearly doubling the season's total since officially beginning Oct. 1, according to the most recent...

PIERRE, S.D. - Flu season has taken flight in South Dakota.

For the week ending Jan. 7, 36 lab-confirmed cases of the flu were reported statewide, nearly doubling the season’s total since officially beginning Oct. 1, according to the most recent statistics from the South Dakota Department of Health. The spike in cases prompted the DOH to up its “geographic spread” from local activity to regional activity, indicating influenza-like illnesses has increased in about half of the state’s regions, and there have been recent confirmed cases of influenza in the affected regions.

And though the number of cases has seen an uptick, South Dakota’s flu season has yet to reach its peak, and Avera Director of Quality and Safety Dawn Tomac said it’s impossible to predict.

“Influenza typically occurs during the winter months,” Tomac said. “Peaks vary from year, to year, and this is why the CDC and the state Health Departments start to collect data from early October until the end of May. Last year’s peak occurred in March, whereas the year prior occurred in December.”

The same week, 1,235 of the season’s total 7,365 rapid tests were administered, with 120, or 9.7 percent returning a positive result. In total, 156 people have been diagnosed with the flu since Oct. 1.

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In the previous week, ending Dec. 31, there were only 14 lab-confirmed cases of the flu and 752 rapid tests administered, with 57 returning positive results.

Confirmed cases are characterized by a "full-blown" set of tests, whereas the rapid-test cases involve a less extensive round of tests that can be done in the doctor's office.

Forty-one people have been hospitalized with the flu this season, with the majority either older than 64 years or younger than four, accounting for 74 percent of all hospitalizations. One patient older than 64 has died from flu complications, according to the DOH. The 10 people reported hospitalized in the DOH’s most recent statistics is the most hospitalizations in a single week this flu season.

According to Tomac typical influenza symptoms include headache, fever, chills, cough and body aches, whereas intestinal symptoms are uncommon. Symptoms generally occur one to three days after exposure to an infected person, Tomac said.

To avoid the virus’ spread, Tomac advises those who are ill to cover their coughs, stay home when sick and wash their hands frequently.  

And extra precautions are taken in medical facilities.

“Hospitals assess all patients for signs and symptoms of illness and take steps to prevent transmission by implementing precautions,” Tomac said. “Patients with influenza-like illness are placed in droplet precautions and staff will mask or have the patient mask to prevent spread. Precautions are implemented based off the symptoms the patient has.”

Related Topics: HEALTH
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