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Seasonal Flu Season 'Eerily Slow'

March 2, 2010, 6:11 PM by Kelli Grant

Seasonal Flu Season 'Eerily Slow'
If you're wondering why you haven't heard much about seasonal influenza lately, it's because it still hasn't shown it's face.

The seasonal bug typically peaks in February and at the beginning of March. But the virus seems to be hibernating.

This week last year, influenza season peaked in South Dakota.  Throughout the whole season, the strain killed four people and hospitalized 131. But this year the virus has set new rules.

Last fall, the H1N1 virus dominated every influenza test but that tapered off at the end of 2009.

Health officials say that's thanks to the mass H1N1 vaccination clinics.

"Since then, 16 weeks later, we're still going down hill and seasonal influenza has simply not kicked in yet, not at all. Not in South Dakota and not nationally either," State Epidemiologist Lon Kightlinger said.

The seasonal flu vaccine was made available much earlier last year, starting in August. And Kightlinger says that could be why that bug hasn't shown it's ugly face.

"It's been extremely slow, eerily slow," Kightlinger said.

He's never seen a seasonal influenza season quite like this one. But the nation also saw its first pandemic in 41 years last fall.
So he says anything is possible and we shouldn't rule out the seasonal bug just yet.

"I'm just really open to anything and not taking anything off the table now. We're waiting and seeing. We're being watchful and weary," Kightlinger said.

Since there are other respiratory viruses like RSV still circulating, he says good hygiene shouldn't be ignored.

"People really need to be watchful yet, especially if you're around young children or the old. You know don't be going in there coughing because the influenzas are just one group of respiratory viruses and disease that pass around the wintertime," Kightlinger said.

You can still get your seasonal and H1N1 vaccine, but health officials are already looking toward the next flu season. The FDA and World Health Organization has announced the H1N1 strain will be a component in next year's vaccine.  That means one shot will protect you from all strains.

Look back at seasonal flu numbers online.

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