Lincoln – The Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) is reporting higher levels of flu and flu-related cases in Nebraska. 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.
As flu activity is currently elevated throughout the state, it is important to remind Nebraskans that the flu vaccine is the best protection against flu-related illnesses, missed work or school, and flu-related hospitalizations.
“The good news of declining COVID-19 cases is giving us some much-needed optimism,” said Dr. Matthew Donahue, State Epidemiologist for DHHS. “As influenza cases increase, it is important for Nebraskans to consider proven tools, like the flu vaccine and flu antivirals, to keep themselves and their families safe from sickness, hospitalizations, and death.
The most effective defense against this illness is the flu vaccine. The vaccine is safe and rigorously tested. The most common reaction people may experience from the shot is soreness and redness at the injection site. After vaccination, it takes about two weeks for the body to build immunity. Nebraskans can safely get a flu vaccine at many locations throughout the State. Vaccines.gov is also a resource for finding flu vaccines near you.
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
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. Antivirals currently approved are: Rapivab (peramivir), Relenza (zanamivir), Tamiflu (oseltamivir phosphate, also available as generic), and Xofluza (baloxavir marboxil).
In addition to getting vaccinated, prevention measures can also protect against the flu:
- Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue every time you cough or sneeze. Throw the used tissue in a wastebasket. If you don’t have a tissue, sneeze or cough into your sleeve.
- Practice non-pharmaceutical interventions
- After coughing or sneezing, always clean your hands with soap and water or an alcohol-based hand cleaner.
- Stay home when you are sick.
- Do not share eating utensils, drinking glasses, towels, or other personal items.
- Clean your hands often with soap and water or an alcohol-based hand cleaner.
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose, or mouth.
- Avoid close contact with people who are sick, if possible.