As influenza numbers climb, Omaha physicians urge kids, adults to get flu shots

Published: Dec. 23, 2021 at 9:31 PM CST
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OMAHA, Neb. (WOWT) - With an increase in COVID-19 cases and the omicron variant beginning to emerge in our community, health officials say flu numbers are also making a big jump.

Children’s Hospital reports the number of kids getting flu vaccines in their physician’s clinics has dropped dramatically, too.

“Just from today, I’ve already had six positives in my office, I’m running some tests as we speak but this is critical for us to be getting vaccinated as soon as possible,” Children’s physician Dr. Shannon Godsil said Thursday.

She works with the Val Verde office in La Vista.

“Our numbers are down 32% when it comes to the influenza vaccine this year compared to last year,” she said.

Dr. Godsil said there are a few reasons for this:

First, flu numbers last year were so low due to more masking and people taking more precautions, leading to a false sense of security for this flu season, she said.

There was also a fear of a “twindemic” last year, she said.

“I think a lot of it — especially from the pediatric population — was that everyone was very worried about what influenza and COVID could look like together; and so from our perspective, we saw a lot of people vaccinating their children especially for influenza because the COVID vaccine wasn’t available at that time,” Dr. Godsil said.

But now, they are seeing patients suffering from both illnesses at the same time. Many of them are also suffering from RSV, which has been spiking since this summer and is still very prevalent in the community, Dr. Godsil said.

“When you’re talking about kids under the age of five, you know, they’re much more at risk of being hospitalized, especially when you’re talking about kids with flu under two years of age, so you know, I’ve had patients that were positive with RSV and COVID, today COVID and influenza, so what those viruses can do together is always worrisome.”

The Douglas County Health Department has also seen flu numbers double.

“Prior to last week, we had 143 cases on the season, which is a significant increase from the previous year. But last week alone, we had another 143 cases, and that is certainly a cause for concern,” said Phil Rooney with the Douglas County Health Department.

Rooney also encourages the community to keep in mind that these are only the reported numbers, so it’s likely much smaller compared to the actual number of flu cases in the community. Nevertheless, it shows how rapidly the illness is spreading.

Both Rooney and Dr. Godsil said the more these flu numbers climb, the more local hospitals will be stretched thin.

They say the benefits of the vaccine far outweigh the risks.

“It may not be 100% effective in keeping you from getting you ill, but it’s extraordinarily effective in keeping you alive and out of the hospital. So that’s a very good reason to get the vaccine,” Rooney said.

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