N.D. health officials encourage flu shots

BISMARCK—State health officials are encouraging North Dakotans to get an influenza vaccination this fall, saying there are more than enough doses available.

The North Dakota Department of Health and Custer Health in Mandan had a news conference Monday morning to discuss the importance of receiving the vaccine.

Influenza is unpredictable, so health officials can’t determine what’s going to happen this year, said Michelle Feist, influenza surveillance coordinator. So far, one case of influenza has been reported in the state.

The vaccine covers two strains of influenza A, including H1N1, and one strain of influenza B, said Molly Sander, immunization program manager. The vaccine is available via injection or nasal mist.

Influenza is a respiratory illness caused by a virus spread through coughing, sneezing and talking, Feist said. Symptoms include fever, cough, sore throat, aches and extreme fatigue.

The Health Department encourages everyone 6 months and older to be vaccinated.

However, it’s especially important for children 6 months to 4 years, adults 50 and older, long-term care residents, pregnant women, people with high-risk medical conditions, American Indians and obese people to be vaccinated, Sander said.

People who could spread the disease to those at high risk – such as health care workers and parents of infants younger than 6 months – also should be vaccinated, she said.

Custer Health Administrator Keith Johnson said influenza is not the same as the stomach flu.

Each year, more than 400 North Dakotans die as a result of complications from influenza and pneumonia, and hundreds more are hospitalized, Johnson said. The state’s health partners are ready to administer vaccines, he said.

“It’s a small investment of your time for a potential really big payback,” he said.