Lancaster County flu cases nearly triple as season gets off to early start

LINCOLN, Neb. (KLKN) — Flu season made its appearance earlier than usual this year, and high numbers are concerning health officials in Nebraska.

“Normally, flu season, we start seeing flu cases in mid-December, late December, sometimes in January. But this one started in early November,” said Tim Timmons with the Lincoln-Lancaster County Health Department.  

Last week, Lancaster County had 332 reported cases. That is 78 more cases than the previous week. 

The county saw a huge spike as Thanksgiving week came to an end. 

“In October, we had 19 reported influenza cases, in November we’ve had 675 reported influenza cases,” Timmons said.

Right now, the younger population is being most affected.

“About 36% of the flu cases in Lancaster County have been in school-age kids 6-19 years of age,” Timmons said. 

But cases in adults ages 20 to 64 are also starting to trend higher, he said. 

So far, the flu is blamed for two deaths statewide, but medical officials say that number could spike if more safety measures aren’t taken.

Molly Herman with the Northeast Nebraska Public Health Department told Nebraska News Connection that the flu could quickly spiral out of control with more holiday gatherings coming up and H3N1 remaining dominant.

“That is usually a strain that causes more severe illness in people, more hospitalizations and more deaths,” Herman said. “And so, it’s really important to get vaccinated because any flu vaccine is going to give you a level of protection that’s going to help keep you from getting super sick.”

The owner of Urgent Care of Lincoln owner said the facility is seeing more cases and is able to track some through DNA/RNA PCR testing. 

“Locally in Lincoln, we’re seeing a much higher positive influenza rate compared to the surrounding Midwestern states,” Dr. Donald Rice said. 

Rice said there might be several reasons for this number being so high. 

“Because everybody was so focused on COVID and getting vaccinated people, forgot to being vaccinated for the flu,” he said.

Health officials say the best way to keep people safe is vaccination. 

Over the last week, more than 19,000 hospital patients were admitted with the flu across our country.  That almost doubles the week before.

It also marks the nation’s highest level of hospitalizations for flu in more than a decade.

The “tripledemic” of flu, RSV and COVID-19 is only adding to concerns, as some hospitals are being pushed to their limit.

Nebraska wastewater surveillance from the middle of November revealed that COVID-19 was high to very high in 12 of the 14 monitoring sites.

Categories: Coronavirus, Health, Lancaster, Nebraska News, News