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Northwest Salmon



Local nursing homes enact visitor bans as statewide flu related death tallies climb

by Amanda Fanger

Two of Day County’s three nursing homes are asking visitors not to come into their facilities to visit due to the outbreak of influenza in South Dakota.

Strand-Kjorsvig Living Center in Roslyn and Sun Dial Manor in Bristol are asking people to stay away for the time being. Bethesda Home in Webster remains open to public visitors.

Due to the number of influenza cases within South Dakota doubling in the past week, administrators have dubbed this move the smart thing to do during this season.

At Strand-Kjorsvig, the visitor ban has been in place for the past week. According to Penny McIntosh, director of nursing, several residents have become ill within the facilities there.
And while no resident or staff have come down with the flu at Sun Dial, director of nursing Connie Brown hopes the visitor restrictions will keep it that way.

Both nursing homes have face masks and hand sanitizers at the front door for those who do need to access the facilities as well as signage asking people to not visit if they don’t have to. The visitor bans at both homes are in place until the end of January, at least. After that, administration will reevaluate and make a decision.

The rampant strain of influenza going around this year is known as H3N3 and was not among those covered by this season’s flu shot.

As of Jan. 23, there were 23 deaths related to influenza in South Dakota. While none of those were from Day County, each of Codington, Grant, Roberts and Brown counties had recorded one death each. Day County had three recorded hospitalizations.

There had been 404 hospitalizations and 725 confirmed influenza cases in the state as of Jan. 23. Of those cases, 93 percent have been Influenza A.

According to Dr. Lon Kightlinger, state epidemiologist for the South Dakota Department of Health, the greater majority of those affected by this year’s flu bug are 65 and older.

In fact, 67 percent of those hospitalized are over that age. So far, 83 percent of the deaths in the state were also over the retirement threshold. One death was a child under the age of four years.

Although this year’s predominant flu bug – known as H3N3 – is not covered in this season’s influenza vaccination, Kightlinger says there are still benefits to having the shot.

There are four viral components in the flu shot each year; two are for type A and two are for type B. Even though H3N3 is not among them, there are enough crossover benefits to getting the shot to make it worth it, Kightlinger said.

A person who has gotten the shot might have just enough protection from the mutated bug or the shot may lesson the severity, he said. The H3N3 virus is just slightly different than one of the viral components included in this year’s shot, he said.

“(Viruses are) always changing, always evolving... there is only a slight difference this year,” he said.

So slight that a shot may provide just enough protection to keep a person out of the hospital or to keep them from dying, he added.

As physician’s assistant Brenda Holscher from Waubay’s Avera Clinic put it, “Only 20 percent coverage is better than no coverage.”

This season, Holscher says the clinic in Waubay has seen their fair share of influenza cases come through. The ages varied, from young kids to adults in their 90s, she said.

People who think they’re sick should check their FACTS – Fever, Aches, Chills, Tiredness and Sudden onset. Holscher said that acronym helps people determine if they should go see a health care provider.

Lola Pollard, PA at Sanford Clinic in Webster says that Tamiflu has been a good medication for symptomatic response this season.

“But it needs to be started early,” she said.

Both schools in Day County are taking precautions against the bug this season.

Superintendent Jim Block says at Webster Area Schools custodians and teachers alike are taking as many precautions as they can to prevent the spread of the influenza virus within the school. A disinfectant spray and wipes are being used to keep objects and surfaces in classrooms clean.

Fact sheets have been sent home with students also, helping highlight what signs and symptoms to watch for.

Block says a few teachers and a number of students have missed school days due to the flu.

In Waubay, school nurse Kari Holman says they’ve seen only a couple of cases of students being sent home with the flu. She was not aware of any teachers or staff having the bug.

So far, Waubay School has seen more respiratory type illnesses than flu related, Holman said. Waubay is encouraging staff and students to practice proper hygiene, including washing hands with soap and water often.

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