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Nebraska Has Its First Flu Case

Ruzanna Harutyunyan's picture

Nebraska has its first laboratory-confirmed case of influenza for 2008, according to the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services. The case is from Lancaster County.

“We now know for certain that flu is here in Nebraska,” said Dr. Joann Schaefer, Chief Medical Officer. “The best thing you can do to protect yourself from it is to get your flu shot.”

Influenza can be a serious illness. It leads to 200,000 hospitalizations and 36,000 deaths in the United States every year.

The very young, the very old, and those with compromised immune systems are most susceptible to viruses. Getting the flu can lead to pneumonia—a frequent cause of death among the elderly.

An antiviral can be prescribed by a physician within the first 48 hours of the appearance of symptoms. This can lessen the symptoms of the disease. After 48 hours, it is generally not effective.

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Antibiotics won’t work on viruses like influenza. Antibiotics won’t make a patient feel better, recover quicker or keep others from getting sick. Widespread use of antibiotics is fueling an increase in drug-resistant bacteria.

“Antibiotics are not a cure-all,” Dr. Schaefer said. “They just don’t work at all on viruses.”

It is especially important to get a flu shot now.

“Holidays mean parties and get-togethers where people mingle and spread viruses,” she said. “By getting immunized against influenza, you can greatly reduce your chances of becoming ill.”

Handwashing can also reduce the chances of contracting viruses like influenza.

“Handwashing doesn’t take much time or effort, but it offers great rewards in terms of preventing illness,” Dr. Schaefer said. “Viruses can be on everything you touch—door knobs, keyboards, toilet handles, dishes, etc.”

Good handwashing involves wetting your hands with warm, running water, lathering well for 20 seconds, scrubbing all surfaces, and drying with a clean towel. Alcohol-based hand sanitizers are an alternative to hand washing when soap and water aren’t available.