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Flu vaccinations up from previous years

Crystal Sauer, L.P.N., gives a woman a flu shot Tuesday at Sanford Bemidji Clinic as Dr. Bill Muller looks on. Pioneer Photo/Monte Draper

While the flu has not yet hit Bemidji, the cold season has arrived, according to Dr. Bill Muller, a family medicine specialist with Sanford Bemidji Clinic.

That is typical, he said, noting the spread of viruses increases once school is back in session.

While colds are spreading, there have been no local confirmed cases of influenza, Muller said.

Statewide, the Minnesota Department of Health reports three people have been hospitalized this season with confirmed influenza; one person has died.

The peak season usually hits in January, although Muller said he expects to see a sporadic case or two in the coming months.

The state's Department of Health recommends that anyone 6 months old and older receive immunization by flu shot or nasal spray.

Particularly, Muller said, there are four groups of people who should especially be sure to be immunized: those 6 months to 19 years old, 50 years or older, pregnant women or women planning to become pregnant, and those with chronic health concerns such as pulmonary conditions.

Those who should not get the flu shot, according to the Health Department, include people who have a severe allergy to chicken eggs and those who have had a severe reaction to the vaccination in the past. Anyone with a moderate or severe illness with a fever should wait until the symptoms dissipate before getting a flu shot.

As of Tuesday, Muller reported that 7,031 people have received the flu shot from Sanford Bemidji this season.

"We are doing very good," he said, adding the number vaccinated is higher than normal.

The vaccination is expected to have about a 60 percent effectiveness against the anticipated flu strand, Muller said.

If someone does fall ill, Muller said, he or she should stay home, cover themselves while coughing or sneezing, and stay away from those who can't afford to get sick or are unable to have a flu shot.

"Those are the people who typically get hit the hardest," he said. The regular person might get ill and be sick for a couple of days but he is not as likely to get a devastating illness.

Muller said early diagnosis can cut shorten the course of influenza if treated with 48 hours of the onset of symptoms.

People with known exposure can come in for treatment, he said. For instance, if a family member was diagnosed with influenza and you did not get immunized, you should come in, especially if you have a chronic medical condition.

He stressed the symptoms of the flu are different than those of a cold. The flu goes beyond a stuffy nose and congestion to include coughing, a fever and body aches.

The symptoms are significant and cannot be mistaken for the common cold, he said.

"I've had it once in my life, and it hurts. Your skin hurts, your hair hurts," he said. "You don't want to be touched, you don't want to be snuggled."