Bit yet?

Bit yet? by David Lias Got a headache? Fever? Cough and sore throat? Stuffed up nose? All of the above?

You've probably been bit.

Influenza A has taken some western states by storm, and while the bug isn't prevalent in South Dakota yet, it has made its presence known in Clay County.

As of Dec. 9, the South Dakota Public Health Lab confirmed 35 influenza A cases by viral culture.�

The flu was first detected in the state in Sioux Falls on Nov. 11.

Not long after that, Travis Slaba, a physician's assistant at Sioux Valley Vermillion Medical Clinic, encountered his first case of influenza A to officially mark the beginning of the flu season here.

"I diagnosed the first case here on the day before Thanksgiving," he said. "Since then, it's definitely hit hard."

It's become apparent this week that this flu strain is starting to take its toll. The number of students at Vermillion schools calling in sick is climbing.

Vermillion went on with its holiday vocal and band concert Tuesday night, despite having a small number of musicians unable to perform because of illness.

Slaba said it's hard to predict just how hard the area may be hit by the illness.

"We're seeing a lot of cases here in the clinic," he said. "I'm not sure what they're seeing across the street at the Vermillion Medical Clinic or at Dr. Tom Olson's clinic, but I know

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we have seen quite a few cases."

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, flu cases were sporadic in South Dakota, as of the end of last week.

Meanwhile, the bug was reported to be widespread throughout Nebraska, and hitting regional areas in Iowa.

Many people readied themselves for a possible bad flu season in the region by getting a flu shot this fall.

Ironically, the vaccine may not shield everyone from the flu this year.

The ability of the vaccine to protect a person depends on his or her age and health status and the similarity or "match" between the virus strains in the vaccine and those in circulation.

It seems the bug that's circulating right now doesn't match the one contained in the vaccine.

"You can still get sick even if you've received the flu vaccine, but it doesn't last as long," Slaba said. "The flu vaccine definitely helps, but it won't always completely eliminate all of your symptoms."

People who become ill should first visit their health care provider for proper diagnosis and care, he said.

"Otherwise, one of the more important things one can do is drink lots of fluids," Slaba said. "Lots of water, lots of Gatorade � keep pushing the fluids to keep from becoming dehydrated."

To battle the fever and body aches that often accompanies the flu, he recommends Tylenol or Ibuprofen. Don't give aspirin to children, Slaba added, as that has been linked to Reye's Syndrome.

"I recommend that if someone thinks they might have influenza, regardless of whether they've had the vaccine, to come and be tested at a clinic," he said.

People who seek care within 48 hours of being bit by the flu bug can receive an anti-viral treatment.

"It diminishes the duration of the illness by three to five days," Slaba said. "It's definitely worth the effort."

Family members that have been exposed to an ill person should receive the same treatment, he said.

"The flu is transmitted from person to person by an airborne route, he said, usually when an infected person coughs or sneezes. "Any close environment, be it dormitory or nursing homes, increases your chances of spreading airborne illnesses."

According to the South Dakota Department of Health, several hospitals and nursing homes in South Dakota are restricting visitors to stem the transmission of influenza to people who are hospitalized.

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