The North Dakota Department of Health (NDDoH) is reporting widespread influenza activity for North Dakota. As of Dec. 13, 332 cases of laboratory-confirmed influenza have been reported, with a large increase in the number of cases reported in the last two weeks. Several community outbreaks have also been reported in recent weeks.
It is common for different types of flu strains to circulate each season. Nationwide, the majority of flu cases have been caused by Influenza A H3N2 this season. However, this circulating A H3N2 strain has changed a little (or drifted) from the A H3N2 strain used to make the vaccine. The vaccine is effective against other influenza strains circulating in the country and may still provide some protection against the drifted strain.
In years when the circulating influenza viruses differ from the vaccine components, treatment with influenza antivirals becomes especially important. Treatment with antivirals works best when begun within 48 hours of getting sick. For this reason, it is important people receive prompt medical attention if they think they may have the flu. Antivirals may also be given to people at risk of severe complications of flu if they know they have been exposed to someone diagnosed with flu.
Influenza can be a serious illness for some people. Complications of influenza and pneumonia contribute to the deaths of over 400 North Dakotans annually, most of whom are older than 64.