Nebraska at High Risk for Seasonal Flu

State Department of Health classifies 2018-19 flu as widespread


Photo by CDC

The CDC classified flu activity as widespread in Nebraska, as well as most of the United States.

Natalie Pearson, Entertainment Editor

With the United States currently in the peak of flu season, there has been an uptick in flu cases in the Omaha area. Flu activity typically ramps up during the winter months, but it can continue to occur as late as May.

This year has been particularly severe, with over 80,000 influenza-associated hospitalizations and nearly 7 million people sickened, according to the CDC. Nebraska reported seven influenza-related deaths as of January 5.

The state of Nebraska as a whole ranked No. 1 in flu activity during the week of Jan. 19, courtesy of the Walgreens Flu Index. At week 5 of flu season, ending Feb. 2, the CDC classified Nebraska as having high influenza-like illness (ILI) activity levels, along with 24 other states.

This makes it all the more pertinent to vaccinate with outbreaks occurring in over half of the regions in the state. The best time to vaccinate is in October, but getting vaccinated later can also be beneficial. The flu vaccine protects against three types of viruses: influenza A H1N1, influenza A H3N2 and influenza B Victoria lineage.

The nasal spray vaccine is available again for the 2018-19 flu season.

Nobody can know for sure how long the flu season will last. It’s impossible to predict what each season will be like, as they vary each year in timing, severity, and length.

“The current numbers are high, though below last year’s peak,” said Dr. Tom Safranek, Nebraska’s state epidemiologist according to the Omaha World-Herald. “I don’t see anything to suggest it’s plateaued, though, and we’ve turned a corner.”

Safranek recommended the use of antivirals as a means of shortening the course and severity of the flu. He also reminded Nebraskans to take precautions to avoid getting sick or spreading the disease, including washing hands, staying home when sick and avoiding sick people.

The best way to combat the flu is getting the vaccine, however. It’s still not too late in the season and there are a whole host of benefits to go with it.

While you might still get the flu if you get the shot, it will definitely be less severe. Most of this year’s vaccines cover four strains, so you’ll be protected if another strain dominates later in season. Finally, by getting the shot, you protect those who are at higher risk or can’t get the shot, such as pregnant women, the very young and the very old.

Natalie Pearson

Natalie became a member of the Flightline in August of 2017. She is a junior this year, involved in band. Outside of school, she enjoys watching movies and playing video games. You can email her at [email protected]