Flu bug hits South Dakota hard and early

RAPID CITY, SD (KEVN) - Approximately 200,000 Americans are hospitalized each year with influenza.

In South Dakota, at least 300 more confirmed cases have been reported this year than at this time last year.

“Our clinic numbers are high this year, but I would not say that I feel like we’re seeing more influenza in our urgent care clinics,” said Alexia Gillen, Urgent Care medical director at Regional Health. “We are seeing lots of upper respiratory and lower respiratory tract infections, but I wouldn’t say that I feel like we’ve seen a ton of influenza.”

In South Dakota, over 1,400 confirmed cases of influenza have been reported as well as 12 deaths. People ages 65 and older accounted for all of the deaths. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, at least 30 children have died from the flu in other parts of the country.

“Basically, we go into the classrooms and we do health education classes about washing your hands; cover your mouth when you cough,” said Linda Poppens Boland, Knollwood Elementary School nurse. “We do not want them to get the flu. If they have the flu, the actual flu, we don’t want them to spread the flu.”

The flu season usually begins in October and continues through April, however, doctors across the nation are seeing a rise in influenza cases four weeks earlier than in past years.

“The CDC is saying that we are seeing about six percent of our urgent care and emergency care visits being influenza related which is higher than we typically see,” said Gillen.

If you want to get a flu shot, Black Hills Urgent Care, Regional Urgent Care and Shopko still have the flu vaccine available.