Two die as flu season surges in Washoe County

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RENO, Nev. (KOLO) Washoe County has recorded the first two deaths of the flu season. It's likely there will be more.

There's little that's predictable about the flu, but the two fatalities were members of a high-risk group, both in their 80s with underlying medical conditions. Still the deaths remind us this can be a serious disease and the flu season hasn't peaked yet.

"When we do look at past seasons, we do anticipate we're going to continue to to see additional illnesses that the flu activity in our community is going to continue to grow," said Washoe County epidemiologist Kerry Chalkley.

Even young healthy people can get the flu, even die from it, but, Chalkley said, certain groups are more vulnerable.

"People over the age of 65, young children under the age of five. It can include people with heart disease, chronic lung conditions such as COPD, asthma and diabetes or liver disease."

So anyone in those groups should have gotten a flu shot by now.

The yearly flu shot is no guarantee. One of the fatalities was immunized, but each year the shot prevents millions of cases, thousands of hospitalizations and a number of fatalities.

And with the flu season running through May, those who haven't have plenty of reason to get one even now.

"Even if you are a relatively healthy individual there may be someone in your life or maybe you're a caregiver for someone in a higher risk group."

That advice to get a yearly flu shot, along with other measures, shielding others from coughs and sneezes, washing your hands frequently and avoiding others when your sick, have been known for years.

But, Chalkley said, on record the single most effective preventative is, however, disappointing.

"Last season Nevada was actually projected to have the worst immunization rates for the flu vaccine in the country. Only an estimate 36 percent of people six months old or older got their flu vaccine last year."