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HEALTH: Flu cases increase

The number of influenza cases reported statewide by the North Dakota Department of Health this week more than doubled the cases reported last week. The department reported 518 cases of influenza this week, while last week's count was only 216. Pe...

The number of influenza cases reported statewide by the North Dakota Department of Health this week more than doubled the cases reported last week.

The department reported 518 cases of influenza this week, while last week's count was only 216.

People in the Grand Forks area have been coming in greater numbers for flu shots, according to local Public Health officials.

"We have been doing more vaccinations than expected," said Debbie Swanson, nursing and nutrition supervisor at Grand Forks Public Health. "Especially with the very sad deaths of the children in Minnesota, many parents have been bringing in their children."

Public Health has plenty of vaccine left for the rest of the season, according to Swanson. The cost for a flu shot is an $8 donation and the shots are covered by Medicare, Medicaid and some insurance companies.

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"Some people haven't gotten the message that the vaccine can be given to all ages and at any time," Swanson said. "Even though the flu season peaks around the end of February and into March, it is still a good idea to get a flu shot."

Swanson says it usually takes about two weeks for the vaccination to completely protect against the virus. Also, she said, people shouldn't worry about getting the flu from a flu shot since the virus in the vaccine is not active.

Schools in Kittson and Norman counties in Minnesota have reported flu outbreaks, according to the Minnesota Health Department.

The recent surge in North Dakota flu cases, however, hasn't affected school attendance in Grand Forks Public Schools, according to Assistant Superintendent Jody Thompson.

More than 2,100 flu cases were confirmed in North Dakota during the last flu season, which peaked in March. The disease kills nearly 400 North Dakota residents every year, according to the Department of Health.

The best way to prevent the flu is to get a flu shot, the North Dakota Department of Health says. Beyond that, state and local officials say there is really one other thing to do, and that is make sure you wash your hands.

The Associated Press contributed to this article. Reach Rude at (701) 787-6754, (800) 477-6572, ext. 754; or arude@gfherald.com .

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