Washoe Health District highlights seriousness of flu numbers

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RENO, Nev. (KOLO) - The Washoe County Health District reports numbers from a recent influenza report paint a picture of just how dangerous and deadly the flu is. Statistics released from the Washoe County Health District 2016-17 Influenza Surveillance Report show out of 2,408 laboratory-confirmed influenza cases in Washoe County last flu season, 312 (13%) were hospitalized for more than 24 hours, and eight people died.

Another statistic of concern, according to the district, is that six of the eight people who died from influenza (75%) were un-immunized, as were three of five pregnant patients who were hospitalized.

“These statistics re-enforce what the CDC and public health experts have been saying for years,” said Washoe County District Health Officer Kevin Dick. “Getting a flu shot is the best prevention for catching the flu.” According to Dick, the CDC ranked Nevada as the lowest state in the country for influenza vaccinations with only one in three people getting flu shots. “Our rates for flu shots are under 34%, which means that two out of every three people are unprotected and pose an increased risk of transmitting the disease to you,” Dick said.

The district says there are several ways to get an influenza vaccination. To find locations where you can get a flu shot near you, visit influencenevada.org. Most pharmacies (even in grocery stores) offer vaccine and will accept insurance cards. Flu vaccines are required to be covered by your health insurance without charging a co-payment or co-insurance.

The Health District recommends people take advantage of this service as soon as possible. Although flu season officially begins the first week of October, flu cases are already being confirmed around the state and country.

Uninsured or underinsured people can also find free shots at some immunization clinics also listed at influencenevada.org. Free shots for adults 19 years of age and older will be given from 10am – 2pm at the upcoming Remote Area Medical (RAM) Clinic September 29 and 30. In addition to flu shots there will be a limited supply of pneumonia, Hep A, Hep B, HPV, MMR, Varicella and Tdap. For more information about the free RAM Clinic, click here. Wristbands and appointments for free flu shots at the Health District October 4 will also be distributed at the RAM Clinic.

The district says it takes two weeks on average after receiving the vaccine for it to become fully effective. However, many people will realize benefits from the flu shot within just a few days. Getting a flu shot will reduce your chances of becoming sick with the flu and passing it along to others. If you have received a flu shot it can also reduce the severity of symptoms if you do catch the flu.

The district says, "Flu usually comes on suddenly. People who have the flu often feel some or all of these symptoms: fever or feeling feverish/chills; coughing; sore throat; runny or stuffy nose; muscle or body aches; headaches; fatigue; and sometimes, vomiting and diarrhea, though this is more common in children than adults. If you or someone you know is suffering some of these symptoms they should consider medical attention especially if they are at high risk of complications. Those include children under five years-old, adults 65 years-old or older, and pregnant women."

The district advises that 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 into 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.

More information about influenza can be found by clicking here.

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