Numbers don’t lie: Flu virus out in forcePublished 11:24am Thursday, January 17, 2013
If anyone questioned whether the flu bug has been making its way around Fergus Falls in a frenzied pace this winter, the statistics back it up.
Lake Region Healthcare has identified 94 positive results from 346 flu tests given out between Sept. 30 and Jan. 12, based on a report provided to the Minnesota Department of Health. During the same period last year, no one among the 65 tested had a positive result.
In west central Minnesota, flu cases around the state are approaching the 2009-10 pandemic numbers, according to Minnesota State Epidemiologist Issac Triebold. Reported numbers for the first week of January for West Central Minnesota are just under 100 cases, up significantly from last year’s mild influenza season.
The large number of cases have also created a run on the influenza vaccine. Some locations around the county have run out of vaccine, but that does not mean vaccine is not available. Both Triebold and Fergus Falls Public Health Director Diane Thorson said there is an adequate supply of vaccine and encourage people to get vaccinated, if they have not already done so this season.
“I’ve had conversations with people at the hospital that say they are seeing more flu admissions than last season,” said Thorson, who also encourages health care workers to get a flu shot. “There doesn’t seem to be an issue yet with staff calling in sick, but it certainly is a concern that health care workers don’t get sick so that they can continue to care for patients.”
Both Fergus Falls locations of Thrifty White Drug, at 615 S. Mill Street and 107 East Lincoln Avenue, have flu vaccines available, and vaccines are available the first and fourth Monday at the Otter Tail County Public Health Department, or by appointment. People can also arrange for a flu shot through their private physician.
Walgreens in Fergus Falls is currently out of the flu vaccine, and Kmart is in short supply as of Wednesday afternoon. Walmart does not offer the shots.
Tera Torgusson was waiting for a flu shot Wednesday at the public health office.
“I haven’t had one for years, but things sound worse this year,” said Torgusson. “Now I have a job where I work a lot with the public, so it seemed like a good idea.”
Torgusson added that she was concerned when she heard of people dying from the flu. She said she has had a shot in the past, and didn’t have any adverse reaction.
Triebold says that flu season is worse this year because of the type of flu strain- H3 N2, which affects the elderly more than other strains. He also says that the vaccine is effective for the H3 N2 strain.
“It’s not too late to get a flu shot,” said Public Health Director Diane Thorson. “There is a fee, depending on what type of insurance you have, but no one will be turned away for inability to pay.”
The cash price for a flu shot at private locations run about $22.
To make an appointment for a flu shot through the Otter Tail County Public Health Department, call 218-998-8320. The office is located in the Government Services Center, 500 Fir Avenue West Fergus Falls.