For Immediate Release
Contact: Phil Ulibarri
775.328.2414 or 775.772.1659
With over 1,075 lab-confirmed influenza cases reported in Washoe County over the last two weeks, and with approximately 11% of the reported cases being hospitalized, health officials are promoting vaccinations and vigilance to keep people from catching the flu this season. Although the usual peak-of-the-season is still four to six weeks away, according to health officials this looks to be an above average flu season with widespread activity across the country and in Nevada. So far in Washoe County, five flu-related deaths have been reported. All had at least one high-risk or underlying medical condition. Four were ages 65+, and one was between 50 and 60 years-old. Only two of the five were immunized which is consistent with Nevada’s low influenza immunization rate of approximately 36% - the lowest in the nation.
Vaccinations and Vaccine Effectiveness
Flu shots are still your best protection against catching the virus and are still readily available at several locations, including local pharmacies, health care providers, and the Washoe County Health District. A complete list of possible vaccine locations can be found at www.immunizenevada.org. People can also locate shots by using a zip code search at https://vaccinefinder.org/. It usually takes two weeks for vaccine to reach full potency; however, many people will realize benefits from the flu shot within just a few days.
No flu vaccine is 100% effective. Research shows that from 2006 - 2017 vaccines usually had between a 19% and 52% effectiveness rate (https://www.cdc.gov/flu/professionals/vaccination/effectiveness-tudies.htm). Even with less than perfect prevention rates, last year's statistics indicate that flu vaccinations are estimated to have prevented approximately 5.1 million flu illnesses, 2.5 million flu-associated medical visits, and 71,000 flu-associated hospitalizations. In addition, studies show that vaccinations can lessen the severity and duration of the flu if you contract the disease even if you got a flu shot.
The flu usually comes on suddenly. People who have the flu often feel some or all of these symptoms: fever or chills, coughing, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, muscle or body aches, headaches, and fatigue. Sometimes people with the flu can have vomiting and diarrhea, although this is more common in children than adults. If you or someone you know is sick with some of these symptoms they should consider medical attention, especially if they are at high risk of complications. People at high risk of complications include children under five years-old, adults 65 years-old or older, and pregnant women.
The single best way to prevent seasonal flu is to get vaccinated each year, but there are other preventative measures everyone should practice to prevent the flu and other illnesses.
- Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
- When you are sick, keep your distance from others and stay home from work, school, and errands.
- Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue or your sleeve when coughing or sneezing. It may prevent those around you from getting sick.
- Washing your hands often will help protect you from germs. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand rub.
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose, or mouth. Germs are often spread when a person touches something that is contaminated with germs and then touches his or her eyes, nose, or mouth.
- Practice other good health habits. Clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces at home, work, or school, especially when someone is ill. Get plenty of sleep, be physically active, manage your stress, drink plenty of fluids, and eat nutritious food.
“This is definitely shaping up to be an above-average flu season,” said Dr. George Hess of the Washoe County District Board of Health. “To avoid getting sick, get a flu shot and practice good hygiene. This can keep you and those around you safe and healthy this flu season.”
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) does not know exactly how many people die from the flu each year but estimates there were between 12,000 and 56,000 flu-associated respiratory and circulatory deaths annually over the last few seasons. While flu severity can vary seasonally, typically persons aged 65 years and older experience the greatest burden of illnesses and complications, highlighting the importance of vaccination in this age group.
For more information on influenza activity visit the CDC’s website at: www.cdc.gov/flu/index.htm.