Nebraska flu death raises awareness

Posted By: Nicole Cousins

The death of a Nebraska child has a lot of people paying attention to the flu.

The young child was from northeastern Nebraska, health experts say the child did have other respiratory issues as well, but they’re considering the death flu–related.

It’s the 13th flu–related death of a child in the US this year.

Health experts say children under age 5, as well as seniors older than 65 and pregnant women have a higher risk of serious flu complications.

“There’s a risk of death though from influenza infection and we like to keep that in mind because many of those deaths are preventable if we got everybody vaccinated and took the extra precautions including antivirals,” state epidemiologist Dr. Tom Safranek said.

The CDC says flu season usually peaks in February.

But with the month almost over, health experts in Nebraska say the season here is just beginning.

“Influenza is dramatic this year in terms of its deviation from the typical pattern,” Safranek said. “Its really set back a maybe a couple of months from when it usually arrives and we are waiting to see how high the peak is going to go."

Experts say the most effective way to prevent the flu is to get vaccinated, but there are other measures you can take, like frequently and thoroughly washing your hands with hot soapy water.

Still, there’s no way to completely prevent yourself from getting the flu.

"The ability of the influenza virus to mutate makes it the bane of the public health world,” Safranek said. “It remains a pandemic threat we never know when a new mutant’s going to show up that’s going to have pandemic potential and high virulence."

Dr. Safranek said he does believe this child got the flu vaccination.

He urges parents to use their best judgment when caring for sick children..

If your child has a fever, cough or sore throat and looks sick, make an appointment to see a doctor.