As wintertime approaches, health officials in Southern Nevada are urging individuals and families to take precautions to avoid catching the flu.
Instances of the flu have already been identified in parts of Southern Nevada this year.
According to the Southern Nevada Health District, though the activity remains mild, the news provides additional impetus for people to get vaccinated and adhere to standard practices to help prevent illness.
In Pahrump, Desert View Hospital Emergency Department Manager Sherry Cipollini said this week that simple everyday measures can help decrease the chance of contracting the virus.
“The biggest thing that people can do is wash their hands before they touch anything and obviously staying away from others who may be sick,” said Cipollini, who is a registered nurse. “One big thing is people should stay home if they are sick and don’t send the kids to school if they feel sick.”
Flu shots are recommended for those who are six months old, people older than 65, pregnant women, and people with chronic medical conditions are also advised to get vaccinated.
Cipollini noted that if a patient visits the emergency room, the hospital will provide a screening to learn whether they are a candidate for the vaccine.
“We have the flu vaccine, but we’re not necessarily having a flu shot clinic,” she said. “If a patient comes in with a complaint of some injury not related to the flu, while they are here, we will screen them to determine if they need to get vaccinated. If they do, we will offer it.”
As of Wednesday, the hospital has not seen a spike in the number of flu cases in Pahrump, unlike Las Vegas.
Since Oct. 6, the Southern Nevada Health District has administered more than 5,500 flu immunizations.
“We actually haven’t seen a whole lot of cases yet.” Cipollini said.
Cipollini said some people have become very fearful of getting the influenza vaccine, but she said it is safe.
“There are a few people who might feel a little bit under the weather after they get the vaccine, but evidence shows that the vaccine does in fact, help to prevent them from getting sick,” she said. “If they do get sick with the flu, they don’t get as sick as somebody who didn’t receive the vaccine.”
Another related issue Cipollini spoke to was the safety of pregnant women and the flu vaccine.
“It’s safe for expecting mothers to get vaccinated anytime during their pregnancy,” she said.
Meagan Kowalski, marketing director for Desert View Hospital said this week that there are no shortages of flu vaccines this year in the community – unlike years past.
“As far as I’m aware, we do have what we need here,” she said. “There was a delay due to the shortages. With the assistance from outside facilities and agencies, we were able to get what we need.”
Although many healthy people recover from the flu without complications, the Centers for Disease Control this week said on average, the flu virus causes 30,000 deaths and 200,000 hospitalizations in the United States, mostly among people 65 years or older.