January 1, 2009

Dept. of Health: Common flu strain is getting harder to treat

The North Dakota Department of Health is stressing the importance of influenza vaccination after tests show a common treatment is no longer working on certain kinds of the flu.

Tests completed by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have shown that a common strain of the flu, known as type A H1N1, is becoming resistant to a common treatment. Data shows that of the 50 flu viruses tested, 49 (98 percent), could not be treated with the antiviral Tamiflu.

"Influenza can be very serious, causing extended periods of missed work or school and hospitalizations. Sometimes it can be serious enough to cause death," said Abbi Pierce, Immunization Surveillance coordinator for the Department of Health. "This year we will have even fewer options to treat influenza, so it’s that much more important to prevent it and get vaccinated now."

So far this season, seven cases of influenza have been reported in North Dakota. As of Dec. 23, four confirmed cases occurred in Cass County, two have been confirmed in Burleigh County and one in McLean. One of those cases has been culture confirmed, meaning that more extensive lab tests were done to see what kind (or strain) of flu it was.

"The lab tests confirmed that it was an influenza A H1 strain, which is a normal strain that we see every flu season," said Michelle Feist, influenza surveillance coordinator. "That is important for us to know because the flu vaccine protects against these normally circulating strains of influenza. This helps us reinforce the importance of getting vaccinated against the flu."

Typical flu symptoms include fever, dry cough, sore throat, headache, muscle aches and extreme fatigue.

For information, contact Pierce or Feist at 701-328-2378 or visit http://www.ndflu.com. Reported influenza case numbers will be updated every Wednesday on the Web site.

The Weather Network