While flu season is winding down with the arrival of spring, Nebraska health officials are watching for other possible infectious diseases, like the Zika virus.
Deb Scholten, CEO of the Northeast Nebraska Public Health Department in Wayne, says this just-ending flu season wasn’t as bad as the last one.
“Last year, we didn’t have a good match with our vaccine and the type of flu that ended up infecting people,” Scholten says. “This year, it was a little better match so that was helpful. It’s always an educated guess about what the recipe for the vaccine will be year to year.”
Scholten says they are watching for the possible spread of the Zika virus, which is striking hardest in some 30 nations across the Caribbean and Latin America. While the mosquitoes that carry the virus typically can’t survive this far north, Scholten says some Nebraskans are bringing the problems home with them.
“With all the global traffic that we have, people are traveling here and there and all over, there have been some cases in Nebraska that contracted Zika virus when they visited some South American and Central American countries,” she says.
At least two Nebraskans have tested positive for Zika in recent weeks, one each in Douglas and Sarpy counties.
Scholten says the harmful effects of Zika go beyond just pregnant women and can impact anyone.
“There is both the danger of having some birth deformities but also Guillain-Barre, which is sometimes referred to as French polio,” she says, “that’s another consequence of the Zika virus.”
Scholten says people who have traveled to tropical regions and who feel sick when they come back should see their doctor right away.
By Jerry Oster, WNAX, Yankton