County, state and nation experiencing severe flu season
Nebraska, along with the rest of the nation, is experiencing a severe flu season, and Perkins County is not immune.
Chasity Knoles, laboratory director at Perkins County Health Services, said they have been seeing about one confirmed case of influenza per day since mid-December.
A child flu-related death in central Nebraska was reported to the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services in late January.
“We started seeing increased flu activity earlier than usual this year and flu continues to circulate at very high levels,” says Dr. Tom Safranek, State Epidemiologist for DHHS. “During a severe flu season, we see more illness, hospitalizations and sadly more deaths.”
Nationally, 30 children have died from flu this season according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. While most children recover from the flu, some can have severe and sometimes fatal infections, but that has been rare in Nebraska. So far, there have been a total of 22 flu-related deaths statewide - 21 adults and one child.
Of the 5,690 influenza diagnostic tests reported in Nebraska last week alone, 1,392 (24.46 percent) were positive, with 15 percent positive for influenza A and 9 percent positive for influenza B. This compares with approximately 1,000 positive tests the same week in 2017 and roughly 30 in 2016.
So far, 35,200 influenza diagnostic tests have been reported with 6,466 being positive since Oct. 1.
Dr. Matt Byrd, chief of staff at PCHS, said the flu lasts about seven days and a person should stay home from work/school until they are 24 hours fever-free.
Antiviral drugs like Tamiflu, prescribed by a health care provider, should be used as early as possible in people who have flu-like illness. For those who aren’t sick, preventive measures along with flu vaccine can help prevent flu and other winter illnesses.
The following are recommendations to protect against the flu:
• Wash hands often.
• Avoid contact with people who are sick.
• Stay home from work, family gatherings and social functions if sick.
• Cover mouth and nose when coughing with a tissue or sleeve. Do not use hands.
• Eat healthy and get plenty of rest.
• Don’t smoke.
According to Byrd, it as at the discretion of the provider and the family whether to treat the rest of the family once one has tested positive. Normally only high risk individuals would need to be treated. High risk would include, women who are pregnant, elderly, infants, and individuals who have an abnormal immune system or ongoing medical concerns.
According to the CDC, vaccination plays a critical role in the fight against the flu. It can reduce flu-related illnesses, visits to the doctor, missed work and school and flu-related hospitalizations.
The CDC recommends flu vaccine for everyone 6 months and older.
While flu can make anyone sick, the following people are at greater risk for serious complications.
• 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