Influenza numbers are down slightly in Nebraska and Iowa, but the flu still is making plenty of people sick and has led to a death in Douglas County.
Influenza-related hospitalizations and visits to emergency rooms and medical clinics “all suggested that Nebraska had reached a plateau in influenza cases,” Nebraska officials said Friday.
“Influenza activity continues to have marked impact on the Nebraska population,” officials said, “including increased deaths associated with influenza, and school/nursing home outbreaks.”
Seven influenza-related deaths have been reported so far this flu season, Nebraska officials said. Douglas County officials on Friday reported the county's first flu-related death: that of a woman older than 65. The woman, who officials said had underlying health conditions, had not been immunized.
It was too early to say whether influenza had peaked in Iowa, said Dr. Patricia Quinlisk, medical director of the Iowa Department of Public Health. Fewer people had been hospitalized for the flu this season, she said, but the number of flu-related outbreaks at Iowa schools was up.
Influenza activity remained elevated in the United States, the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Friday, but it has decreased in some areas.
Officials said they expect influenza to continue to circulate for the next several weeks.
Jim Quinley, a pharmacist at Kubat Pharmacy at 49th and Center Streets in Omaha, said the pharmacy administered 400 flu shots each of the first two weeks of this month. “It was overwhelming,” he said.
This week, he said, vaccinations have dropped off, but “now people are coming in droves for prescriptions for Tamiflu,” the antiviral drug that treats flu symptoms.
Dr. Joann Schaefer, Nebraska's chief medical officer, said Tamiflu can significantly shorten the duration and severity of flu symptoms if taken within 48 hours of the onset of symptoms.
Schaefer said anyone who hasn't gotten a flu shot this season still should get one. Flu cases continue to show up even in May, she said.
Quinley and Laurie Dondelinger, a spokeswoman for Kohll's Pharmacy & Homecare, said they still had vaccine on hand. Dondelinger said FluMist, a nasal-spray flu vaccine, sells out as soon as it comes in.
Mike DeAngelis, a national spokesman for CVS pharmacy, said some locations were reporting sporadic shortages of flu vaccine. He recommended that people call ahead to check on availability of the shots.