Flu Bug: Widespread in South Dakota

Flu Bug: Widespread in South Dakota
Are you suffering from chest discomfort? Is your head throbbing? Does your body ache, are you suffering a dry cough and do you feel exhausted?

If your answer to most of the above questions is yes, you probably haven't come down with a cold.

Count yourself among the growing number of people that have caught the flu bug this winter.

Some of the heaviest outbreaks of the illness are occurring throughout the center of the United States, in a band that extends from North Dakota south to Texas.

In approximately the last month, two individuals – an infant from Hurley, and an adult from Charles Mix County, have died from complications of the flu.

Melissa Nelson, P.A., has only been on the job for about three weeks at Sanford Medical Clinic, Vermillion.

In that short span of time, however, she's already treated several individuals in the Vermillion area who are suffering with the flu.

"From all of the reports I've read, it's definitely widespread in South Dakota," she said. "It's also widespread in Iowa, Minnesota and North Dakota."

It's important for local residents to know what is and what isn't the flu, Nelson added. People commonly call about of vomiting and diarrhea the stomach flu. It actually isn't a form of influenza, however.

"Flu hap-

pens mostly in the winter, and typical symptoms are a headache, a fever, chills, cough and body aches," she said. "The headache and fever seem to be the most prevalent symptoms, and it's always a fever of over 100 degrees for the most part."

Complications of the flu can include bacterial pneumonia, ear infections, sinus infections, dehydration, and worsening of chronic medical conditions, such as congestive heart failure, asthma, or diabetes.

These are instances where the illness can turn deadly.

"The flu virus puts your immune system at risk, meaning it decreases your immune system," Nelson said, "which makes you susceptible to more bacterial infections, such as pneumonia, and that can at times be fatal, especially with the elderly."

Getting a flu shot offers some protection, but don't look at it as a 100 percent guarantee that you'll survive a flu outbreak in perfect health.

"The vaccine is always kind of a hit and miss, because the vaccine is only of one strain of the flu, and it's always very likely you could get another strain of it," Nelson said. "But it seems that people are becoming more knowledgeable about it, and more people are becoming aware of the importance of the vaccine.

"The flu shots," she said, "are becoming more publicized, and the clinics and the university are strongly encouraging people to get them, which I believe does decrease its prevalence."

It's common for one influenza strain to be dominant in the United States. This year, two strains – Influenza A and Influenza B – have been spreading from person to person, city to city and state to state.

Flu viruses spread mainly from person to person through coughing or sneezing of people with influenza. Sometimes people may become infected by touching something with flu viruses on it and then touching their mouth or nose.

Most healthy adults may be able to infect others beginning one day before symptoms develop and up to five days after becoming sick. That means that you may be able to pass on the flu to someone else before you know you are sick, as well as while you are sick.

"If it's been greater than 48 hours, what we generally do is tell our patients to rest, drink lots of fluids and limit their contact with others," she said.

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