The South Heartland Health Department says two cases of Influenza type A/H1N1 have been confirmed within South Heartland health district as of Monday. A toddler under the age of three and a young adult aged 20-25 both tested positive for Influenza A 2009 H1N1.
This is the same strain of influenza that was responsible for the 2009-10 influenza pandemic, which caused more illness in children and young adults, compared to older adults. This season’s flu vaccines include protection against several influenza strains, including 2009 H1N1.
State surveillance personnel are reporting flu activity in Nebraska to be at a “regional” level. According to a December 26th press release sent by Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Joseph Acierno, the predominant (approximately 94%) circulating strain at this time is influenza A 2009 H1N1.
Nebraska laboratory surveillance for the week of December 15th-21st reports 98% of rapid lab tests performed were positive for Influenza A. The following week, influenza-like illness was reported for 253 hospitalized patients across the state.
“Influenza is a contagious viral infection of the respiratory tract that is spread through coughing, sneezing and direct contact” said Michele Bever, PhD, MPH, Executive Director of South Heartland District Health Department. “Influenza is best prevented by vaccination and good hygiene.”
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, as a result of last year’s flu season, there were a total of 31.8 million influenza-associated illnesses, 14.4 million medically-attended illnesses, and 381,000 hospitalizations in the United States.
South Heartland promotes yearly flu vaccination for everyone 6 months of age and older. “It is the best form of prevention against influenza for you and also helps protect others,” said Dr. Bever. “Getting vaccinated early is important as it generally takes about two weeks for your body to produce antibodies that protect you from illness. If you have not yet been vaccinated, it is not too late.”
The department says in addition to vaccination, staying away from sick people and frequent hand washing will also help you avoid infection from influenza and other illnesses. If you get sick with flu symptoms you should stay home and avoid contact with other people except to seek medical care. If you are currently experiencing influenza like symptoms, contact your healthcare provider. Treatment may be available to lessen the severity and duration of illness.
If you would like additional information on influenza prevention, please call South Heartland District Health Department at 402-462-6211 or toll free at 1-877-238-7595.