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Warm Weather Keeping The Flu At Bay

January 10, 2012, 6:05 PM by Casey Wonnenberg

Warm Weather Keeping The Flu At Bay
SIOUX FALLS, SD - So far, this year's flu season has been fairly mild in South Dakota. Eight cases have been reported to the State Health Department.

Compare that to last flu season when there were 43 at this time. Two years ago, during the H1N1 pandemic, there were almost 1,900 people who had suffered from the flu.

But doctors say we could still have a very serious flu season.

Jean McGee, like many people, has been spending a lot of time outside, enjoying the nice weather.

"I go out on walks. And I sometimes sit out and read on my lunch hour and sit in the sun. It feels really good," McGee said.

Not only do the warm temperatures feel good, but by spending time outside, you could be avoiding illnesses, such as the flu.

"One of the theories is that as the cold weather hits, people congregate more inside, and because the influenza viruses are shed primarily within a three to six foot perimeter around us, that over time, as you cohort people together, you're going to start getting transmission," Sanford Infectious Disease Doctor Wendell Hoffman said.

Just as our recent nice weather doesn't mean we'll see good temperatures for the next couple months, Dr. Hoffman also says our flu season could take a turn for the worse.

"The one thing we know about influenza viruses, the influenza group, is they're unpredictable," Hoffman said.

That's why Dr. Hoffman encourages people to arm themselves against the flu by getting a flu shot, even though we're a couple months into the flu season.

"Influenza is considered a deadly virus, even in otherwise healthy people. And we've seen it take down completely healthy individuals," Hoffman said.

And flu season is exactly what McGee hopes to avoid, even though she knows she won't be able to avoid colder temperatures.

"It doesn't bother me at all that we haven't had snow," McGee said.

So far no one in South Dakota has died from the flu this season. All eight people reported to have battled the flu were hospitalized.

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