The South Dakota Department of Health reported Sept. 27 the state's first laboratory-confirmed influenza case of the season, a Clay County resident in the 40 through 49 age group. The individual had influenza A and was not hospitalized.
"While this case is a little sooner than we typically see, it's not unheard of to report flu this early," said Dr. Lon Kightlinger, state epidemiologist for the department. "The good news is the vaccine is widely available this year and now is a good time to be vaccinated."
He encouraged parents to take advantage of the free flu vaccine the state offers for kids from six months to 18 years. Kids account for a significant number of flu cases and hospitalizations each year and also help spread the illness in the community. Vaccinating children protects them and the people around them.
Annual flu vaccination is recommended for everyone, but some groups are at higher risk for complications and should be sure to be vaccinated. High risk groups include pregnant women, people over 50 years and people with chronic medical conditions. Health-care workers and household contacts of high risk populations, especially those with young infants in the household, should also be vaccinated.
South Dakotans can also prevent the spread of the flu by practicing the common sense measures of the department's "Stopping the flu starts with you" campaign:
- Wash your hands often with soap and water or use alcohol-based hand gel if you can't wash;
- Cover your mouth when you cough or sneeze;
- Don't touch your eyes, nose or mouth;
- Stay home if you're sick.
Influenza is a viral respiratory illness marked by the sudden onset of fever, headache, extreme tiredness, dry cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose and muscle aches. It spreads when an infected person coughs, sneezes or talks, sending the highly contagious virus into the air. Learn more at http://flu.sd.gov.