Flu season is serious this year

RENO, Nev. (KOLO) - Typically Rumors Hair Salon owner Irma Gamboa would be recovering from a busy holiday season, where women and men alike come in to get dolled up for a Christmas party. But this year is was a different story.

“Some kind of bug, viruses. We had quite a few cancellations. And people were really sick. They said we will call you back because they weren't sure, they didn't know when they would be better,” says Gamboa.

Gamboa has the health department to back her up. This year's flu season particularly just before and during Christmas week saw high rates--with about 250 cases diagnosed just before the holiday. That number has lowered to about 200 a week now.

The percentage of people testing positive for influenza is slightly higher than the national average.

“We had approximately 1500 cases of influenza last season. And this season as of week 51 in the year and we have just over 1200. Potentially we are headed into the peak period now. It is an opportunity for people who have not received the vaccine to really talk to their health care provider and go ahead and take that best step to not only protect themselves but also their friends and family,” says Kerry Chalkley, an epidemiologist with Washoe County Health District.

Characterized by a cough, achy joins, tiredness and high fever, influenza does not necessarily get the respect it deserves. But it should. According to Chalkley, three people have died locally from influenza, one very early in the season.

None was vaccinated. More than 130 people have been hospitalized from influenza; 70% of them did not get the vaccination.
While it is not 100%, the strains contained inside this year's vaccine match what is being diagnosed.

If you do get the flu with the vaccine, symptoms should be milder than without the vaccine.

Health officials don't know why we are seeing greater flu activity. It could be the strain is impacting patients more severely, fewer people received the vaccine or the surveillance could be better. They won't have answers until sometime after May.