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South Dakota reports first flu death; vaccination urged

January 20, 2011
CONTACT: Lon Kightlinger, SD Department of Health, 773-3737 
South Dakota reports first flu death; vaccination urged
PIERRESouth Dakota reported its first influenza death of the 2010-2011 season today, a ShannonCounty resident in the 30-39 age group who had underlying health conditions. The individual had influenza A and was hospitalized. To date South Dakota has reported 80 laboratory-confirmed cases of flu and 32 flu-related hospitalizations.
“This unfortunate death is a reminder that flu can be a very serious illness,” said Dr. Lon Kightlinger, State Epidemiologist for the Department of Health. “Annual vaccination is the single best way to prevent the flu and the good news is there is plenty of vaccine available this year. With flu cases now increasing it’s not too late to get the vaccine to protect you and your family.”
Annual flu vaccination is recommended for everyone, but some groups are at higher risk for complications and should be sure to be vaccinated. High risk groups include pregnant women, people over 50 years and people with chronic medical conditions. Health-care workers and household contacts of high risk populations, especially those with young infants in the household, should also be vaccinated.
Kightlinger encouraged parents to take advantage of the free flu vaccine the state offers for kids from six months to 18 years. Kids account for a significant number of flu cases and hospitalizations each year and also help spread the illness in the community. Vaccinating children protects them and the people around them. 
South Dakotans can also prevent the spread of the flu by practicing the common sense measures of the department's "Stopping the flu starts with you" campaign:
  • Wash your hands often with soap and water or use alcohol-based hand gel if you can’t wash;
  • Cover your mouth when you cough or sneeze;
  • Don't touch your eyes, nose or mouth;
  • Stay home if you're sick.
Influenza is a viral respiratory illness marked by the sudden onset of fever, headache, extreme tiredness, dry cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose and muscle aches. It spreads when an infected person coughs, sneezes or talks, sending the highly contagious virus into the air. Learn more at http://flu.sd.gov.