Flu widespread in Nebraska

NORTH PLATTE, Neb. West Central District Health Department Disease Surveillance Coordinator Angela Brown says, the number of patients being treated for the flu is on the rise.

"About Thanksgiving we started seeing an increase and within the last couple of weeks everyone has started to see a peak across the state."

Nebraska now joins 45 other states who are seeing widespread flu activity of the H3N2 strain.

"It means from the panhandle to eastern Nebraska has an increase of cases," Brown said. "A lot of times, you are going to have your high fever, cough, chills, congestion, chest pain, and sometimes people have a lot of body aches."

So far, the Center For Disease Control has reported 41 thousand cases of the flu nationwide.

"We're seeing a lot more earlier this year; we're seeing a lot more numbers and we're seeing it nationwide," said Brown "We're seeing it more in the southern area of the United States, but it hasn't reached complete north yet.

And peak season is still weeks away.

"Normally our peak is from February to March," Brown said. "In Australia, they saw about a 10 percent vaccine strain efficacy on the H3N2 and towards later on in the year, they saw a 33 percent increase and here they are seeing it a lot higher this year."

Still, she says the best protection against the virus is to get the vaccine.

"You are still going to develop antibodies to that flu vaccine and to the flu virus, so once you get it, your antibodies are going to be there, they are going to be reacting and you are already going to be protecting yourself."

Health experts say while the flu shot is not as effective this year, getting it will lessen your symptoms and the chance of getting complications from the flu such as pneumonia.