14 Nebraskans killed by severe flu season

The Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) is reporting very high levels of flu and flu-related hospitalizations across the state.

A total of 14 Nebraskans have died from the flu so far this season including at least one child.

“This is a severe flu season and it’s having a significant impact on the health of Nebraskans,” said Dr. Tom Safranek, State Epidemiologist for DHHS. “We expect high levels of flu activity for several more weeks, which means more illness, hospitalizations and deaths. Vaccination continues to play a critical role, especially for those at high risk of flu-related complications. Antiviral medication for people who have the flu is equally important and so are preventive measures like washing your hands, covering your cough and staying home if you’re sick.”

With the high flu activity, Channel 8 spoke to a local pharmacy on how they keep their medications stocked.

“We’ve been fortunate to keep the medication in stock so far and it looks like our wholesalers that we buy it from have it in stock currently so if we didn’t have a run on it or needed to order more, we could do that,” Pharmacist at Kohll’s, Bryce Walker said.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommend flu vaccine for everyone 6 months and older every year. Certain people are at high risk for serious complications, and it’s extremely important they receive vaccine:        

  • Young children
  • Adults 65 years of age or older
  • Pregnant women
  • People with chronic lung disease (like asthma and COPD), diabetes (type 1 and 2), heart disease, neurologic conditions and certain other long-term health conditions
  • Residents of nursing homes and other long-term care facilities

People should promptly seek medical care if they have flu-like symptoms which can include some or all of these symptoms:

  • Fever or chills
  • Cough
  • Sore throat
  • Runny or stuffy nose
  • Muscle or body aches
  • Headaches
  • Tiredness
  • Some people may have vomiting or diarrhea. This is more common in children than adults.

Antiviral drugs are the best way to treat flu so take them if your doctor prescribes them. Early treatment with antivirals can lessen symptoms, shorten the amount of time you are sick, reduce the risk of serious flu complications, and potentially decrease additional spread of the virus.

A common respiratory virus called RSV (respiratory syncytial virus) is also heavily circulating in Nebraska. RSV usually causes mild, cold-like symptoms. Most people recover in a week or two but RSV can be dangerous for some infants and older adults. Right now, the state has the third highest number of cases recorded since DHHS began surveillance in 2003. Learn more about RSV – https://www.cdc.gov/rsv/index.html.

DHHS started its surveillance for the season in October. The Department uses multiple public health surveillance systems to track flu viruses, including physicians who report the number of people with flu-like illness weekly, lab tests, school surveillance, hospital data, emergency department data and death reporting. Flu surveillance shows where the flu is and how fast it’s spreading across Nebraska.

For more flu information, visit the DHHS website at www.dhhs.ne.gov/flu or the CDC website at www.cdc.gov/flu.

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