Medical Minute: Flu epidemic

MINOT, N.D - The flu has gripped much of the country this season, and North Dakota is no exception.

MGN

This year's flu strain is strong and powerful and state health officials say that more than 4,000 people have contracted the flu; nearly double what it was last year.

Almost 400 people in Ward County alone have caught the bug.

"We don't think the vaccine is as effective as it has been in the past," said Dr. Nwaigwe, Trinity Health’s infectious disease specialist.

Nwaigwe says that they get their initial reports on the effectiveness of the flu vaccine from Australia and Canada, two countries who enter flu season before the United States.

Those countries reported that the vaccine is about 10 percent effective, compared to last year's 30 to 40 percent.

Nwaigwe states, “My experience, most of the people that have been hospitalized have not been vaccinated. It's doesn't mean there aren't people who have been vaccinated who are hospitalized with influenza or have come down with influenza. But from experience, the people who get the vaccination, even when they contract the flu, they tend to have milder illness than if they weren't vaccinated."

The vaccine helps protect patients from several strains, but it's not guarding people from the season's most potent strain, leading to more illnesses.

“We don't know when it is going to peak. We don't know if we have reached the peak yet or whether we are going to peak later. At least in Minot, North Dakota, the flu season tends to peak later in the season, like in late February, March," continued Nwaigwe.

If the trend continues on its path, Minot has not seen the worst of this year's flu season.

Nwaigwe urges people to still get vaccinated, practice good hand hygiene and go to your doctor as soon as you think you may have the flu.