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CHI addresses rising flu cases in Nebraska and how we can protect ourselves

A report from the Nebraska Department of Health and Human services shows flu cases are on the rise
Posted at 1:02 PM, Mar 17, 2022

OMAHA, Neb (KMTV) — A report from the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) shows flu cases are on the rise.

In a press release, the DHHS said: "The State is experiencing increased positive cases, school absenteeism, hospital visits, and hospitalizations. A total of 13 Nebraskans have died from influenza-associated illness so far this season."

Last week's report shows there were around 572 new influenza cases in Nebraska. There were 294 E.R. visits for flu-like illnesses and 128 people were hospitalized.

Overall, 6,557 cases have been reported this flu season. There have been 8,105 E.R. visits and 2,578 hospitalizations for flu-like illnesses.

State Epidemiologist, Dr. Matthew Donohue said that the decline in COVID-19 cases is giving "much-needed optimism" to public health officials, but he also wants Nebraskans to consider protecting themselves from influenza by getting the flu vaccine.

Darcy Jones, PA-C with CHI Health, answered questions from the press on Thursday about CHI Health's treatment of flu patients.

Jones works in a primary care setting and talks about what we're seeing in the community, when to seek care and get tested, and why the flu shot is still the safest protection we have against influenza.

"We’ve definitely been seeing an increase in influenza numbers going back to about the first week of February and that number does continue to increase every week," Jones said.

She said numbers are still relatively low, but we're seeing a later spike than in a typical year. Usually, we see numbers like this in December or January, but this year the steps we were taking to avoid omicron could have also delayed the spread of influenza.

“We were being careful about looking for illness, staying home when we were sick, wearing masks, staying away from other people that sort of thing," Jones said.

One concern this year is that the flu shot seems to be less effective.

“Those viruses tend to mutate as we know with COVID for example, and so mutations that we’re seeing in that H3N2 are starting to evade the flu shot.”

She's referring to Influenza Type A, which makes up over 92% of cases this season. Type B makes up less than 8% of total cases.

Watch the press conference below or on our Facebook page.

DHHS says that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends flu vaccines for everyone 6 months and older every year. Certain people are at high risk for serious complications, and it’s extremely important they receive the vaccine:

  • Young children
  • Adults 65 years of age or older
  • Pregnant women
  • People with chronic lung disease (like 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

The press release from DHHS continued: "In addition, antiviral drugs are also an effective way to treat the flu. Early treatment with antivirals can reduce symptoms, shorten the amount of time you are sick, reduce the risk of serious flu complications, and potentially decrease additional spread of the virus."

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