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Flu Considered 'Widespread' In South Dakota

January 9, 2013, 9:57 PM by Sammi Bjelland

Flu Considered 'Widespread' In South Dakota

By the end of this week, South Dakota will reach the CDC's highest level of influenza classification, known as "widespread." This means there are confirmed cases in all parts of the state. There are only eight other states in the U.S. who have not yet reached this level.

The number of influenza virus cases is spreading quickly and it's hitting hard all across the country. The flu has already caused some deaths in South Dakota and more are likely to come.

"We've reported three deaths already and when we do this week's report we'll have more deaths added to that. Unfortunately influenza is fatal and people are dying in South Dakota," South Dakota Epidemiologist Lon Kightlinger said.

"This is a dangerous virus. This is not your common cold. The flu is dangerous to even otherwise healthy people," Dr. Wendell Hoffman with Sanford Health said.

And the reason behind the spike could be contributed to a variety of things.

"We just came through a holiday season. People were together. There were lots of indoor activities and then we see further spiking in numbers," Hoffman said.

Hospitals in the region, like the Mayo Clinic Health System in Minnesota, have now implemented visitor restrictions to slow the spread of the virus at their facilities. Those types of restrictions have not reached Sioux Falls, however they may be on the horizon.

"Now is the time that the hospitals and nursing homes and other such facilities, they should be looking at what their local activity and their very local community is. And if they're having a lot of sick people, they should deal with it. They should require people to wear masks who are sick. Or they should restrict visiting according to their protocol," Kightlinger said.

And, even if you have gotten your flu shot, there's not guarantee you won't catch the flu. But there are still things you can do to prevent catching and spreading this deadly virus.

"Especially tighten that protective cocoon around your babies, your elderly and your people with weakened immune systems. And then if you're sick, stay home. If your kids are sick, don't send them to school. Don't send them to daycare. Just stay home so you're not spreading that virus around," Kightlinger said.

Both men we spoke to say there are still plenty of flu vaccinations available in the state, and it is not too late to get one. Hoffman mentioned that if you did get a shot this season, there is no need to get another one.

This article has been revised to reflect the following correction:
A misspelling was corrected in this story.

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