It's the earliest flu season in 10 years, and how fast it's spreading. This year's virus has already killed 18 children and hospitalized more than 2,000 people across the country. The CDC says 42 states now report widespread flu activity…the previous week, only 31 did. And there's no peak in sight for what's predicted to be the worst flu season in decades.
States in the West, including our own, have not been hit hard…yet. But at the Reno V.A. Hospital, Scott Mambourg says what's happening elsewhere is a sneak peek of what we'll be facing here, especially with folks bringing the virus back from holiday trips. "Once you see an outbreak and there is a lot of holiday travel, that does spread it around." As do the kids, who are back in school this week.
Time is running out to get the shot to safeguard against the flu. Who's the most vulnerable? Mambourg says "An elderly population is always at risk and should be vaccinated." Seniors make up 75% of the clientele at Reno's V.A. Hospital. Scott is part of a flu task force, overseeing the 18,000 shots they are giving to patients, and employees like Rae Lynn, who received one while we were there.
The early flu season started in the Gulf Coast states and quickly spread around the country. Washoe County reports an average flu season so far, but that could change. There are other things to do besides the shot to protect yourself. "Stay at home if you're sick. You want to cover your cough and sneezes. You want to hand wash...hand washing is a big one."
Besides the scary start to the flu season, the virus itself is more severe this year. Mambourg says, "It is a tough strain, but everything we're seeing is covered by the vaccine, so if people get early vaccination, they should be protected. If they don't get vaccinated, it's going to be tough."
For those who are concerned about mercury (which has been used as a vaccine preservative), there are flu shots available without the toxin. The Reno V.A. Hospital's shots do not have any mercury. Also, it takes two weeks for the shot to take full effect so the earlier you can get it, the better. The shot doesn't guarantee you won't get the flu, but doctors say they are about 60% effective.
- written by John Potter
There is more information available from the Washoe County Health District. Here's a link to their flu page: