SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) — South Dakota confirmed its first flu death of the season this week.

The Department of Health says the person lived in Minnehaha County and was in their 80s.


As flu season begins, healthcare professionals say unlike COVID, flu symptoms usually come all at once.

“The flu tends to hit you like a ton of bricks, high fevers, body aches. After that, you may develop a cough or some other complaints as well. But most people notice the high fevers, the chills, the body aches right away, and it’s the type of thing that puts you in bed almost immediately,” said Jeremy Cauwels, chief physician for Sanford Health.

Not quite as contagious as COVID, the flu is commonly spread through contact.

“So first and foremost, all of us want to get together and you know, meet with our families. Go for Thanksgiving, go for Christmas, all of those things. In addition to sharing, you know, mashed potatoes and turkey, you could share a virus as well,” said Cauwels. “The best way to prevent you from getting sick from that is to get vaccinated beforehand.”

Cauwels says getting your flu shot is one way you can increase your chances of not getting sick.

“It reduces your risk of ending up in the hospital or having something more serious happen by 50%. And anytime we can get 50% improvement in disease for a group of people, we think that’s a win,” said Cauwels.

Age can also be a risk factor as well as underlying medical conditions.

“One of the things that makes influenza dangerous is extremes of age. So if you’re very, very young, and can’t fight off an infection, or can’t fend for yourself, or if you’re very old, and are more prone to getting an infection,” said Cauwels.

State officials say an average of 35 South Dakotans die from the flu each year.

Two notable medications to help treat the flu are Tamiflu and Baloxavir. Both of those need to be prescribed after testing positive for the flu.

Influenza is different than having what’s often called the stomach flu.

“Lots of people talk about getting the GI flu, so they’ll get nausea, vomiting and diarrhea. They’ll say they have the flu, I want them to recognize that influenza is a different disease,” said Cauwels.

Click here for flu vaccine sites in South Dakota.