Influenza B is the main flu strand circulating, especially serious for kids

RAPID CITY, S.D. (KOTA TV) - Influenza activity has been increasing in South Dakota and is currently considered widespread.

Children 5 years and under are most vulnerable to influenza B/Victoria, the main flu strand circulating at the start of the 2020 season. (CNN)

The first flu-related deaths were reported in South Dakota this week. Influenza is circulating at its peak and isn't expected to slow down for at least several more weeks, the CDC reports.

All parts of the country are seeing flu activity, but what's not typical is the predominant strand that's circulating, influenza B/Victoria.

Ty White is the Infection Prevention and Control Director at Monument Health.

"It's kind of unusual to see influenza B be the predominant virus. Typically we see more seasons with influenza A being the predominate virus with influenza B having smaller outbreaks before the major peak of the season, then having some outbreaks at the end. This years a little different seeing Influenza B as the predominate virus," said White.

White says in previous years, influenza A has been at the top, so seeing influenza B as the main virus stand at the beginning of this years flu season is an alarming discovery -- with the main population affected being kids.

"Influenza B can be very serious especially for our kids 5 years and under. It can be very serious and lead to some of those complications and death. It's really important to know that influenza B can be just as serious as influenza A," said White.

The CDC estimates 39 children have died in the United States this flu season.

As of this week, there have been more than 1,500 lab-confirmed cases of influenza in South Dakota, with H1N1 making its way into the mix.

White says people can still get influenza even with the flu shot but getting vaccinated can make the disease less severe, especially for children 5 years and under. He says as long as influenza is circulating, it's never too late to get your shot.