It’s no secret that flu season is in full swing, and with flu activity currently occurring across the state, area residents are being reminded to get flu shots and to practice good hygiene to avoid contracting the influenza virus.
According to the Three Rivers Public Health Department, flu activity is currently occurring at a “widespread” level across the state of Nebraska. So far this flu season there have been 62 laboratory confirmed influenza cases in the district counties of Dodge, Saunders, and Washington.
“In the past week and a half or two weeks the number of cases has increased tremendously, so we are what is considered widespread at a state level,” Terra Uhing, executive director of Three Rivers Public Health Department, said. “It is higher than it was last year at this time.”
Three Rivers also does weekly surveillance with long term care facilities, hospitals, and schools for influenza like illnesses to track the flu activity level in the district. According to the department, there has been one reported outbreak at a long-term care facility in the district.
Of the 62 laboratory confirmed influenza cases in the district, 53 were confirmed to be influenza A (H3N2), and 9 were influenza B.In the past H3N2-predominant seasons have been associated with greater severity, especially among young children and adults.
“The main one they are seeing is the H3N2 strain and that strain is known to make people pretty sick,” Uhing said. “So a lot of people wonder if they should still go get a flu shot, and that is still the number one best way to protect themselves from getting the flu.”
Those at high risk for flu related complications are people 65 years or older, people with chronic medical conditions, pregnant women, and young children.
“When you are getting flu shots another key aspect to remember is that it is not just for you and your family it is for those that are a high risk of complications so that would be pregnant women, those young children who cannot get the flu shot, and more importantly those with immune compromised systems,” Uhing said. “So at the end of the day all of those factors go into trying to keep our communities healthy.”
Those who haven’t received a flu shot this season are encouraged to contact their local healthcare provider to check for availability. Three Rivers still has a plentiful supply of vaccine; those interested are asked to contact them at (402) 727-5396.
“We have flu shots, some of the pharmacies have flu shots as well as medical providers, but it is not necessarily about where they go to get their flu shot, just as long as they go and get a flu shot,” Uhing said.
According to Uhing, those who are currently experiences flu symptoms, especially a fever, should avoid getting the flu shot but even those who already had the flu and are no longer showing symptoms should still get the shot.
“Because of the flu we have going on right now, even if they think they have had influenza and if they are not running a temperature and showing symptoms I would still go ahead and get the flu shot,” she said. “Who knows how many times we are going to see influenza this year and especially with what we are seeing right now, there is a lot of illness out there. It has peaked quite a bit before when it typically peaks so that makes me wonder if we are not going to see an extended flu season.”
Along with receiving a flu shot, good health habits and simple hygiene practices can go a long way toward preventing the flu and other illnesses such as the common cold.