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Flu season 2013: An update on Nebraska’s outbreak

Reporter

Published: Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Updated: Tuesday, January 22, 2013 08:01

Flu

Photo by Joe Shearer/The Gateway

Sophomore Public Health student Taylor Dobbs looks on as she receives a flu vaccination from Student Health Services Assistant Director Julie Kalasek on Thursday.

Every year there is a flood of information and public health advertising about getting the flu vaccine. This season is no different; however, there are many indicators that this will be the best time to get your first flu vaccination.

“Getting the flu shot is a proactive, preventative measure,” said Marcia Adler, director of Student Health Services. “As a nurse, it’s even more important since my exposure levels are much higher than most people.”  
Adler emphasized that this year’s flu is worse than previous years, especially because of some unique environmental changes in the past couple years. A very mild winter last year meant fewer bacteria and virus strains were killed off. Additionally, effects from the Missouri River’s flooding introduced new airborne allergens and bacteria to the region, which along with the flu virus, makes the fight much more difficult.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention explain that the flu is a contagious disease, spread by coughing, sneezing and nasal secretions. The rates of infection are highest among children and elderly. Pregnant women and children carry the highest risk for severity of illness.

Another danger of the flu virus is that it shares symptoms with many other, more benign illnesses.  
“The best symptoms to look for are sudden onset fever and exhaustion,” Adler said. “Then body aches, clear nasal drainage, and nausea and diarrhea can emerge as symptoms.”

So far, the Douglas County Health Department has confirmed 1,132 flu cases and one fatality for this season and has suggested that the peak of the season is yet to come.

This means there is still plenty of time to be immunized. Since the influenza virus changes every year, it’s often difficult to get a very effective vaccine within the year. However, this year the vaccine is at 60 percent efficacy, which is high by historical standards.

For those who already have the flu, or think they may, Adler stressed staying in. She says the first step should be to call a healthcare provider and manage the fever with ibuprofen or other over-the-counter medication.

Then, expect to have to enter the healthcare center through a side door, or even to be asked to wear a mask, because the flu is quite contagious and particularly to those already ill. Adler also suggested trying to get up and move around at home as laying around all day keeps the fluids in your lungs, slowing recovery.

With all the illnesses going around, getting a flu shot this season is a good idea. Many places around town offer flu shots, as does UNO’s Student Health Services in HPER 102. Vaccines are offered on a first come, first serve basis.

The cost is $15 for students, $20 for faculty and staff and can also be run through insurance. Student Health Services is open from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.

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