Local health officials consider the present flu season average at best judging by the low number of reported cases of the flu virus in Nye County.
“We have not seen an abnormal amount of flu cases,” said Markeeta Araujo, chief nursing officer at Desert View Hospital. “The best way for people to avoid contracting the flu is to wash their hands, especially while out in public. Cough into your sleeve and cover your nose when you sneeze to prevent spreading germs.”
Late last year marked the beginning of flu season activity, which usually peaks in January or February, but it can occur as early as October and as late as May according to hospital officials.
Some groups are more likely to experience complications from the seasonal flu, including seniors age 65 and older, children younger than two years of age and people with chronic health conditions.
Pahrump’s Senior Center sees hundreds of the valley’s elderly population each week. Site Manager Anne Harris said so far, the center has not seen a large number of local seniors coming down with the flu.
“We had a flu shot clinic back in October,” she said. “We have had just a few of our seniors who caught the flu bug.”
Nye County might lag behind the season, avoiding the larger flu bug impacting other parts of the state and country.
The Centers for Disease Control said Tuesday that the flu reached “epidemic” levels during the New Year’s week, reminding U.S. citizens to get the flu vaccine now as the best chance to avoid illness.
And cases in Nevada are increasing as well, resulting in local warnings to get vaccinated sooner than later, according to the center.
“We don’t want anyone to panic, but we do want them to take this seriously,” said Immunize Nevada Executive Director Heidi Parker. “The most important thing people can do to protect themselves and their families from the flu is to get a flu vaccine – either a shot or the flu mist.”
The United States sees increasing flu cases every year around this time. The center notes that flu is now “high” or “widespread” in 43 states — up from 22 the previous week — and that it is already responsible for claiming the lives of 21 children.
Desert View Hospital’s director of pharmacy, Nicholas Del Gandio, said that all local parents should be mindful of their child’s hygiene practices, while watching for symptoms in the months to come.
“It usually affects the young because they really haven’t developed the immunity,” he said. “Older individuals have been exposed to viruses throughout those years. There’s a natural immunity that builds up.”
Meagan Kowalski, the hospital’s marketing director, said local parents need not worry about driving to Las Vegas if their child is exhibiting flu-like symptoms.
“Our respiratory director informed me that if a child were to come to our emergency room in respiratory distress of some sort, we are able to treat them here,” she said. “If a kid comes in and it’s suspected that they have the flu, it doesn’t mean that they will have to be sent over the hill to Clark County because we are well-equipped to treat the children here.”
State health officials also consider the flu season moderate even though they have no positive indication of how bad the season may become.
According to the Nevada Department of Health and Human Services, more than 1,300 cases have been reported throughout the Silver State.
Additionally, Centers for Disease Control officials said influenza-associated deaths have been reported during the 2014-2015 season from nine states including Arizona, Colorado, Florida, Minnesota, North Carolina, Nevada, Ohio, Texas, and Virginia.
About half the children were sick enough to be hospitalized had been healthy. Avoiding close contact with people who are sick is one way to prevent contracting the flu.
Those who are sick should keep their distance from others and if possible, they should stay home from work, school and errands Araujo suggested.