First SD flu death reported
PIERRE, S.D. (AP) -- South Dakota's first flu-associated death of the season has been reported, the state Health Department said Monday. The victim lived in Davison County and was 80 to 89 years old. The department said the person had influenza A...
PIERRE, S.D. (AP) -- South Dakota's first flu-associated death of the season has been reported, the state Health Department said Monday.
The victim lived in Davison County and was 80 to 89 years old. The department said the person had influenza A and other chronic health conditions.
State Epidemiologist Dr. Lon Kightlinger said the flu season has started slowly but that the death is a reminder of how serious the disease can be.
"We're having a slow season," he said in an interview, "and the cases we've had have been sporadic. They are not concentrated in one section of the state but they're just smattered all over the place."
South Dakota had 22 influenza-related deaths last year.
It's impossible to predict the length and severity of the current flu season, Kightlinger said.
"What probably will happen, and this is based more on history than what we actually see now, is that it probably will peak in late February or early March. Almost half the time in South Dakota and nationally, it's been February when we've had the peak of influenza."
"The only year in recent history that we've had a really early season was the 2003 season, and then it peaked the second week in December and was actually over by the middle of January."
He did say that England is having a serious influenza outbreak this season and that health officials aren't sure whether that will affect the United States.
There's still time to get a flu shot, Kightlinger said, adding that there are no shortages of vaccine.
"We still haven't been hit bad with it yet," Kightlinger said. "And there's still vaccine available.
Federal health privacy regulations prevent the Health Department from being more specific about flu victims, Kightlinger said, adding that the department did not release such information even before a stricter federal law took effect.
The Health Department uses general references for the victims but feels it's important to let the public know that the flu is serious and that people need to get flu shots, he said.