The current flu season: what it is and what to do


Liam Al-Hindi

A student undergoes a check-up at the Nebraska Medicine UNO Health Center. Photo courtesy of UNO Communications.

On Jan. 15, Nebraska’s Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) expressed concern that the state is experiencing a “Severe Flu Season,” stated the dangers the illness poses and provided information about how citizens can respond.

The DHHS refers to the current number of reported flu-related hospitalizations as “very high,” and sites that, as of Jan. 15, 14 people have died from the flu in Nebraska this season. It is important to note that the DHHS considers the season to have started in October 2019. DHHS has multiple severity levels of flu activity, and most U.S states are at the most severe level, which is “widespread”, a level contingent on activity being reported in at least half of a state’s regions. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) website also provides an interactive map with more detailed information.

The CDC recommends vaccines for “everyone 6 months and older every year,” as well as prescribed antivirals, a benefit on top of vaccinations. The DHHS maintains that this is especially important for younger and older people, people who are pregnant and anyone with a preexisting condition that could be worsened by the flu.

The DHHS lists seven main symptoms that may be caused by the flu: fever, headache, tiredness, dry cough, sore throat, nasal congestion and body aches. If one has contracted the flu, they can be contagious for a day or two even before experiencing symptoms. This is why the DHHS recommends vaccinations, not just drugs for treatment after contracting the flu.

Flu shots are available at the Nebraska Medicine UNO Health Center, located in room 102 of the Health and Kinesiology Building. Shots are free for students, but parental permission is required for students age 18 and younger. The UNO Health Center uses the vaccine “FluLaval,” which the Health Center states “prevents against four different flu viruses.” The UNO Health Center has the same stance as the DHHS on the frequency of needing vaccines, in that even if one was administered the vaccine last year, they still need it the following year.

If one does contract the flu, the DHHS suggests drinking liquids, avoiding tobacco and alcohol, getting plenty of rest and using antiviral drugs. It is important to note that the CDC states that antivirals are not over-the-counter and must be prescribed by a medical practitioner.

The CDC states that the experience of mild symptoms does not warrant seeking medical aid. However, it does give a list of symptoms that could be indicative of an emergency, and people experiencing these symptoms should immediately seek medical care. These symptoms include difficulty breathing, persistent chest pain, persistent confusion, seizures, lack of urination, severe muscle pain, severe weakness, worsening fever or cough and the worsening of chronic medical conditions. It’s also suggested to contact one’s medical provider for more specific or conclusive advice.

For further information, those interested can reach out to the UNO Health Center at (402) 554-2374 and the DHHS Office of Epidemiology at (402) 471-2937.