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11 Flu Deaths In South Dakota

March 18, 2011, 6:10 PM by Kelli Grant

11 Flu Deaths In South Dakota
SIOUX FALLS, SD - Five more South Dakotans have died from influenza, bringing the total this flu season to 11, including two children.

They're numbers that health officials say wouldn't be so high if people simply protected themselves from the virus. The good news it's not too late.

Health clinics across South Dakota continue to stay busy, and hundreds of patients are coming in every week with flu-like symptoms: fever, headache, cough and congestion.

“Last year was almost exclusively H1N1, which was the pandemic year. This year we've gone back to a more usual year - a more usual flu season in the sense that we've got multiple flu strains causing the flu,” Sanford Health Infectious Disease physician Dr. Wendell Hoffman said.

Hoffman says influenza should never be considered, "just the flu."

“Influenza is a potentially deadly viral infection to anybody,” Hoffman said.

Since flu season began in the fall, nearly 600 cases have been confirmed by the state health department. Last week 43 people tested positive for influenza.

And sadly, 11 people including two children, have died this flu season in South Dakota.

The two children, both teenagers from Minnehaha and Lincoln County, had underlying medical conditions.

“In particular it's deadly to vulnerable populations like the very young, the elderly population and anybody who's got an underlying medical condition and also pregnant,” Hoffman said.

It takes two weeks for antibodies needed to fight the virus to build up in the body. That means there's still time to get vaccinated before flu season ends, typically in May.

“It's not too late to get a vaccine. We're urging our healthcare workers to continue if they haven't been. The CDC now recommends immunization for the entire population,” Hoffman said.

And because healthy adults may be able to infect others one day before getting symptoms, it's possible to give someone the flu before you even know you're sick.

Because influenza is a virus, you're doctor won't prescribe an antibiotic. But Tamiflu, which is an antiviral drug, may be prescribed to shorten the duration of symptoms.

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