Flu Season Off to Unusual Start

Season kicking off with Influenza B rather than typical A-strain

FARGO, N.D. — The CDC estimates that at least 1,300 people nationwide have died from the flu this year.

While this number doesn’t surprise one North Dakota epidemiologist, the type of flu affecting people in our region does.

“It is a little unusual, if you look back at prior seasons, the A-string is predominant early in the season, and then later in the flu season, typically February or March is when we see an uptick in the B-strain,” says Brenton Nesemeier with North Dakota Department of Health.

Minnesota Department of Health says 80 percent of the positive flu specimens tested in the first week of December have been the B-strain.

In North Dakota, it’s about 85 percent.

A-strain and B-strain influenza display the same symptoms, but Nesemeier says the flu shot has a better chance combating Influenza B.

“Typically, the flu shot is more effective in the B-strain, so it’s a good idea just to go in and get it.”

North Dakota has had two flu-related hospitalizations, while Minnesota has had 176.

While the CDC recommends people to get the flu vaccine by the end of October, local health experts say it’s never too late.

“Flu vaccines prevent millions of hospitalizations every year, they prevent thousands of deaths every year. It is the best thing you can do to be safe from the flu. Everyone should get a flu shot. Kids who are 6 months and older, anyone 6 months and older can get a flu shot. The flu shot is safe, it does not cause influenza. It prevents illness, it prevents death, it prevents hospitalization, it prevents time out of work, it prevents time out of school,” says Dr. Clifford Mauriello with Sanford.

Dr. Mauriello says it’s early in the season, but you can keep yourself safe by doing one simple thing.

“We’re not seeing widespread flu circulation like they’re seeing it in the southeast and the south. That will come in the coming weeks. We’re at the very beginning of flu season; flu activity is only going to go up, which makes it very important to get your flu shot now. It’s never too late to get your flu shot.”

Categories: Health, Local News, Minnesota News, North Dakota News