School Nurse Angie Paisley has flu prevention posters up at Chase County Schools, which third graders Tate Teply and Lily Haldeen are reading on the commons area bulletin board. (Johnson Publications photo)

Flu here; health professionals say shot still helps

    Nebraska is one of 21 states in the U. S. ranked at the highest level for the presence of influenza.
    With eight deaths already reported in Nebraska (no pediatric deaths), health professionals are cautioning area residents to be careful and for sick people to stay home.
    Medical staff at the Chase County Clinic has seen seven confirmed cases of influenza, according to Rhonda Sargent, clinic manager.
    The first case was confirmed shortly before Christmas, she said.
    While others have not been actual influenza cases, Sargent said clinic staff have also seen a lot of other flu-like symptoms. She noted they’ve given 750 influenza vaccines covering all age groups.
    Melissa Propp, R.N., with the Southwest Nebraska Public Health Department, noted Nebraska is in the red zone on the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) influenza surveillance map, and people need to take it seriously.
    Propp said when she looked at the surveillance map this week she was shocked by the number of “red” states.    
    Much of the Midwest, Southwest and West Coast are in the red zone right now. That means it’s a high risk time, and state health professionals believe it likely hasn’t hit its peak yet.
    The flu symptoms aren’t fun, either, Propp said.
    “It’s like the worst cold you’ve ever had and with a fever,” she said.
    Influenza is very contagious and comes on fast, she said.
    Symptoms include a high fever, headache, tiredness, dry cough, sore throat, nasal congestion and body aches.
    What’s unfortunate about it, Propp noted, is that people can spread influenza up to two days before they even have symptoms, and can continue to spread it 24 hours after their fever breaks.
    “People must stay home 24 hours after the fever is gone,” she said.
    Eric Haider, administrator at the Imperial Manor and Parkview Heights, said they are taking extra precautions at the senior care facilities.
    He said they’ve had one confirmed positive influenza case there, but several other residents have exhibited the flu-like symptoms.
    While he said it’s about “back to normal” there, the senior care staff asks people, if they are exhibiting any symptoms themselves, not to visit unless it’s absolutely necessary.
    “If you have a cold or are sick, we ask that you wait until you are better,” Haider said.
    He said they have hand sanitizer and respiratory masks available at the entrance, and encourage people to wash hands.
    Angie Paisley, R.N., school nurse at Chase County Schools, said it hasn’t been overwhelming there yet, but there have been about four positive influenza diagnoses.
    “I think it’s just starting up here,” she said.
    Students have been exhibiting other viral illnesses, too, she said, and they are still battling gastro-intestinal sickness (stomach flu), as well.
    Paisley agreed with Propp that it comes on fast if it is influenza. That sudden onset of symptoms is an early sign it probably is influenza.
    “It’s a signal. The student comes to school feeling fine, then has a 103 temp by 10,” she said.
    Paisley administered about 60 influenza shots in October to CCS staff members.

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