Nebraska has recorded the state’s first influenza-related death of the season, health officials said Friday.
The victim was an elderly adult from the Southeast District Health Department area, which includes Johnson, Nemaha, Otoe, Pawnee and Richardson Counties.
The report follows Iowa’s report Monday of that state’s first flu-related death for 2017-18: an elderly central Iowa man who died earlier in October.
Dr. Tom Safranek, Nebraska’s state epidemiologist, said it is early for the state to record a flu-related death. While that shouldn’t necessarily be cause for heightened concern about the severity of the season ahead, he said, it does underscore the potential seriousness of the disease and the importance of getting vaccinated.
Last season there were 58 flu-related deaths in Nebraska, including two children.
And the time is right to get flu shots, Safranek said. Though flu activity has been low so far in Nebraska and Iowa, it takes up to two weeks for the vaccine to take full effect. The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that nearly everyone over 6 months old get the flu vaccine. Again this year, the nasal spray form of the flu vaccine is not recommended, because of concerns about its lack of effectiveness in previous seasons.
To find out where the vaccine is available, contact your health care provider or local health department or go to vaccinefinder.org.
As part of its routine tracking of flu viruses, the state also has identified one human case in Nebraska of a variant flu virus that normally circulates in swine. The person has been hospitalized and released. The case of H3N2v was the first in Nebraska, which became the 19th state to report the variant virus since 2005. A total of 61 cases have been reported in the United States so far this year.
Safranek said the virus is not being spread from person to person.
“While it’s rare for flu viruses in animals to spread to people, it’s possible,” he said in a statement. “The ability to identify such an event is part of what makes our influenza surveillance systems so successful.”