OMAHA, Neb. — Flu activity continues to increase at an alarming rate in Douglas county. According to the Douglas County Health Department, last week there was a record breaking amount of confirmed cases, almost 900, despite most clinics being closed Christmas Day. The growing number of cases is alarming health professionals.
"It really took off about three or four weeks ago and it's just been straight up. We've already surpassed the number of cases so far this year than we've seen in any of the past five years," Nebraska Medicine Chief of Infectious Disease Dr. Mark Rupp said.
According to the health department, every week the amount of confirmed cases continues to grow in the county. This year's flu season, that started a month early, is breaking records.
"The main strain that we're seeing is really just this H1N1 strain that we've seen in past years. But for whatever reason it took off earlier this year and has really spread throughout the population quite quickly," Dr. Rupp said.
The Health Department has also recently announced the death of a second Douglas County resident as a result of this year's flu season. Both flu victims were over the age of 65 - one of the most vulnerable age ranges.
"Those people who are most susceptible to death or complications due to flu are very young, so kids typically less than one year of age, or the elderly, those who are 65 years of age," Dr. Rupp said.
Walgreens tracks the amount of flu medication its pharmacies provides. As of December 21, Nebraska is the number one state for medications. In the entire country, Omaha is the most affected city.
"We really don't have a good explanation for that and the flu typically comes on in one region of the country and spreads very quickly or another region and unfortunately this is our year to be one of the first areas to get struck by the flu," Dr. Rupp said.
To better protect yourself from the flu remember it's not too late to get your flu shot if you haven't already. Make sure to stay home from work if you're experiencing any symptoms and wash your hands.
"Wash your hands a lot and get plenty of rest, fluids, little bit of exercise, try to keep your immune system as healthy as it can so that you can ward off the virus if you're exposed to it," Dr. Rupp said.
Other flu prevention tips include covering your cough, disinfecting common surfaces and drinking lots of water.