Health officials say the flu virus is widespread across the state. This comes as no surprise to University of Nebraska Medical Center’s Director of Infectious Diseases Dr. Mark Rupp.
Dr. Rupp says, “Every year we see an epidemic. We don’t often know until we are into it how severe it is going to be and we also won’t know for a little bit longer whether vaccine we have been administering to folks matches up to the circulating strains in the community.” He says the epidemic curve is parallel exactly to what health officials saw during the 2018 season that was severe.
The Douglas County Health Department reports there were 356 confirmed cases of influenza last week, up from 209 cases confirmed two weeks ago. Several of the victims with underlying health conditions were hospitalized. Several deaths have also been reported statewide.
Health officials are seeing two different strains circulating now as well as a few strains of what is called influenza “B”. The vaccine protects against both “A” and “B” strains. However, Dr. Rupp says with the number of strains out there, a person could come down with one and later become ill with another.
There is no mistaking the flu for other illnesses. Dr. Rupp says, “Traditionally, influenza hits you pretty hard. You have high fever, often times 102, 103 degrees. You have generalized body aches, headache, sore throat, runny nose. When you really have the flu, you know it. It will take an otherwise healthy person and it will put them in bed for the next several days.”
Prevention and precaution are two keys in avoiding the flu. Dr. Rupp says the number one thing you can do is get the flu vaccine. Take precautions when shopping or in a crowd. Wash hands frequently. Avoid rubbing your nose or eyes and use hand sanitizer often. If you are ill, stay home and let the virus run its course before heading back to work or school.