The North Dakota Department of Health has been tracking an unusual flu season this year, with the number of recorded cases climbing higher than normal. As of last Wednesday, 2,965 cases of influenza were reported, with 455 of those classified as Novel H1N1.
One Novel H1N1 case resulted in the death of the person infected.
"This season has been unique for a couple of reasons. We have seen cases of Novel H1N1, which is a new influenza virus, and second we have had transmission that started in the spring, picked up in summer, and continued into early fall," said Kirby Kruger, epidemiologist for the state health department.
"Generally, we don't see numbers as great as what we're seeing right now," he added.
Kruger explained that during usual seasonal influenza, the peak in cases generally occurs in February or March, though it's not always consistent from year to year.
The health department has been pleased with the response of local public health units and the public to the increasing cases of influenza.
"I think we've done a fairly good job at the local level getting people vaccinated. It has been frustrating for people giving the vaccine, and people waiting for the vaccine, but I think we're getting to a point now where we're getting people vaccinated," Kruger said.
In the near future, as more vaccine supply becomes available, vaccination clinics will be opened up to additional priority groups.
In addition to the public's vaccination response, businesses and schools have also helped counter the spread of flu.
"We've seen school districts and employers work on policies to make sure their policies are going to be more conducive to controlling the spread of influenza. Also, people have done a good job trying to do the best they can to protect themselves until the vaccine becomes more widely available," Kruger said.
As a response to the need for public information, the state health department launched a toll-free hotline, 1-866-207-2880 to provide general information about H1N1 or seasonal influenza. The hotline operates from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday. Kruger said that when the hotline was first made available, it wasn't unusual to receive 80 to 90 calls a day.
Kruger encourages the public to continue to take steps to protect themselves against influenza this season.
"I would encourage people to continue to watch the media for vaccination clinics in their area, and to pay attention to which groups are going to be vaccinated," Kruger said.
For people in the Minot area, information on upcoming H1N1 vaccination clinics is available at (www.fdhu.org).
First District Health Unit has scheduled an H1N1 vaccination clinic this Wednesday from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the Minot Municipal Auditorium.
The clinic is an opportunity for children ages 9 and under who were vaccinated Oct. 21 or before to receive their second dose vaccine, or booster. Those people should bring their cream-colored vaccination card they received at the time their first dose of vaccine was given. People must know the date of the first vaccination if they don't have their card.
Other priority groups that can be vaccinated at this clinic include all persons over 6 months old through age 24, pregnant women, and parents, siblings, and caregivers of infants under 6 months old.