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Flu reportedly sweeping across SD

The number of flu cases is on the rise in South Dakota, and the Mitchell area isn't immune.

"In the last two weeks, we saw a peak in the number of positive tests in our area," said Avera Queen of Peace Hospital Director of Infection Control and Employee Health Pat Reiner, a registered nurse.

The number of cases at the Mitchell hospital fell this week, Reiner said, but she couldn't say if that was the start of a new trend of just a temporary lull.

The latest South Dakota Department of Health influenza surveillance report, which covers the week of Dec. 30 to Jan. 5, shows 469 cases of influenza have been confirmed in the state so far, already approaching last season's total of 505.

There have been 135 people hospitalized in South Dakota with the flu already this season, the report says. Nine deaths have been reported, including five during the week of Dec. 30 to Jan. 5.

The current flu season began early, with the first confirmed cases in South Dakota reported in mid-September, the report says. Last season, the first cases were not reported until the final week of October.

The most recent Centers for Disease Control and Prevention flu advisory report, which covers the week of Dec. 23 to Dec. 29, shows 41 states report widespread influenza activity, which is an increase from 31 states the previous week.

The Mitchell School District has yet to feel the impact of the state's early flu season, said Superintendent Joe Graves.

"We haven't seen it yet, but that doesn't mean it's not coming," he said.

The district's attendance rate, which usually falls between 94 and 96 percent, has changed little, if at all, in recent weeks, Graves said.

"We're probably going to see here in the next few weeks how much it will affect us," he said. "We're hopeful that we can avoid some of this, but I'm sure were going to get it somewhat."

Mitchell Assistant Fire Chief Paul Morris, who was home sick with flu-like symptoms two days this week, said paramedics have seen a typical number of flu patients on ambulance calls so far, but he suspects more cases in the coming weeks.

"It might be a long couple of months," Morris said.

At Avera Queen of Peace, every precaution is being taken to prevent the flu from spreading among patients, visitors and hospital staff.

"We want to make sure that no one comes to visit our patients if they are ill," Reiner said.

The hospital provides separate waiting areas for anyone who is ill, and stocks kiosks with masks, tissues and hand disinfectant at every entrance, Reiner said.

It's not too late to get a flu shot, Reiner said.

As of Friday morning, flu shots were still available at the Davison County Nurse's Office in Mitchell. The supply at Walgreen's was nearly out, and Lewis Drug was completely out, but expected to receive 50 more doses on Monday.