Flu season will likely soon be upon us and state health officials hope to get ahead of it.
A statewide flu surveillance is underway by the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services.
State Epidemiologist Dr. Tom Safranek says flu season normally begins in December or January and he wants Nebraskans prepared.
“We strongly believe that the best way to prevent it is to get the flu vaccine,” Safranek tells Nebraska Radio Network. “Everybody over six months of age is recommended to get the vaccine.”
Some groups of people are at high risk for the flu:
· 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
“These are situations where if you get influenza the outcome may force you to go to a doctor, go to an emergency room to be hospitalized,” according to Safranek. “These are the groups where we actually see fatalities in a small percentage of cases.”
The statewide flu surveillance has been providing data to DHHS. No flu cases have been reported, yet. Last year, the flu season came late. Safranek calls it quite unpredictable.
DHHS says it uses multiple surveillance systems to track flu viruses, including physicians who report the number of people with flu-like illness weekly, lab tests, school surveillance, hospital data, emergency department data, and death reporting. The surveillance detects where the flu is and how fast it’s spreading across Nebraska.
Only injectable flu vaccine is recommended this season by DHHS. The nasal spray flu vaccine should not be used due to concerns about its effectiveness according to the Centers for Disease Control.
Flu season normally peaks between December and February, according to DHHS. Last year, Nebraska recorded 17 flu-related deaths, including one child.
For more information on the influenza, click here for the DHHS website.
AUDIO: Brent Martin reports [:45]