Health officials say the flu is now widespread across the state. Julie Rother, director of the Northeast Nebraska Public Health Department in Wayne, says this is the peak of flu season.
“It can actually go into March and if you look at past years’ flu cases, there can be a peak into March,” Rother says. “We’re still encouraging people to get their flu shot. It’s not too late if you haven’t already.”
State reports show 380 people were hospitalized with the flu in the past two weeks, with 15 deaths so far this season. Rother says older Nebraskans appear to be the most at risk from this season’s dominant flu strain.
“Especially this year, it seems like this virus has really hit the elderly hard with a lot of them ending up in the hospital,” Rother says. “It seems to depend on the virus and this year, the elderly are getting the worst of it.”
Rother says they are also seeing outbreaks of a norovirus-type of illness which causes vomiting and diarrhea. She says people need to avoid passing on those germs and the traditional way of disinfecting our hands may be best.
“Hand sanitizers can be helpful for a lot of things but with norovirus, hand washing with soap and water is actually the best,” Rother says. “Sometimes with norovirus, some of the germs can be kind of resistent to hand sanitizers, so as much as possible, use the soap and water.”
At least 27 clustered outbreaks of flu are reported statewide so far this season.
By Jerry Oster, WNAX, Yankton