It's that time of year again: flu season. But a doctor with the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services says the number of cases this year is "surprisingly high."
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“Flu is taking on a life of its own, and we’re seeing surprisingly high numbers of cases for this time of year,” said Dr. Tom Safranek, State Epidemiologist for DHHS. “If you haven’t gotten your flu vaccine yet, there is a sense of urgency, so don’t wait any longer.”
DHHS says it began monitoring flu season across the state in October, using multiple public health surveillance systems to track flu viruses. Such data include physicians' reports on the number of people with flu-like illness weekly; lab tests; death reporting; and monitoring school, hospital, and emergency department data. Flu surveillance shows where the flu is and how fast it's spreading across Nebraska.
Getting the flu vaccine is the best protection against the flu, DHHS says, and everyone ages 6 months and older are encouraged by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to get a flu vaccine every year.
Safe, effective, and rigorously tested, flu vaccination can reduce flu-related illnesses, visits to the doctor, missed work and school and flu-related hospitalizations, DHHS says.
While the flu can make any of us sick, it can be a life-threatening illness for some people, especially those groups of people who are at greater risk for more serious complications, such as:
- Young children
- Adults ages 65 or older
- Pregnant women
- People with chronic lung disease, such as 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
DHHS advises those with some or all of the following flu-like symptoms promptly seek medical care:
- Fever or chills
- Sore throat
- Runny or stuffy nose
- Muscle or body aches
- Vomiting or diarrhea (This symptom is more common in children than adults.)
The best way to treat flu is to take antiviral drugs if your doctor prescribes them. Such treatment implemented early on can lessen symptoms, shorten the amount of time you are sick, reduce the risk of serious complications, and potentially decrease additional spread of the virus, DHHS says.
Non-vaccine flu prevention
There's lot of other ways to help prevent flu that don't include getting a vaccination:
- Wash your hands often
- Avoid contact with people who are sick
- Stay home from school, work, family gatherings and social functions if you’re sick
- Cover your mouth and nose when you cough with a tissue or sleeve, not your hands
- Eat healthy, and get plenty of rest
- Don’t smoke