Clark County health officials report flu deaths, urge people to get vaccinated

Though Nevada is one of 25 states that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has on its list for widespread flu activity — the Southern Nevada Health District reported three deaths from the virus on Tuesday — the district’s chief health officer says it’s to early to tell if the area will be hard hit by the disease.

Noting that three Southern Nevadans died from flu related illness at the same time last year, Dr. Joe Iser said the incidence of flu cases in the area “is not unusual at this time of the year…it could end up being more serious, but at this point it’s just not something we know.”

Statistics kept by the health district show that in December there were 72 reported flu cases, nearly double the number in December 2012.

The recent deaths were reported in two middle-aged individuals and one elderly person. Because of federal privacy laws, the health district will not release more information on the deaths.

“These deaths serve as a stark reminder of what a serious illness flu can be and the importance of taking preventive measures, such as getting a flu vaccination every year, to protect yourself and your family,” said Iser.

In addition to Nevada, widespread flu activity has been reported in 24 other states, including Utah and Idaho, according to the CDC.

Six pediatric flu deaths have been reported to the CDC since Sept. 29. Though the federal agency does not track adult deaths from flu, states other than Nevada have reported some.

The CDC reported that last year 381, 000 people were hospitalized by the flu and 171 children died.

The flu season typically begins during the fall and peaks in January or February, which, according to Iser, appears to be happening this year. What is different this year, he said, is that the most common strain of the flu is H1N1, which became known in 2009 as the swine flu.

The strain is now so common in the United States it was included in this year’s flu vaccination.

The H1N1 virus makes young adults among the most susceptible to the flu, Iser said. With other flu strains, those with the highest risk of flu-related complications include children younger than 5, adults older than 65 and pregnant women.

In 2009-2010, the H1N1 virus spread from Mexico to 74 other countries, killing nearly 300,000, according to the CDC.

During that time frame, an unusually high 5,567 cases of flu were reported in the Las Vegas Valley, with a staggering 61 million cases reported nationwide.

In 2012 Southern Nevada, there were just 403 flu cases, and in 2013, the number jumped to 636.

Health district officials urge everyone over 6 months old to get a yearly flu vaccination. They say besides getting vaccinated, other ways to prevent the flu is by using good health habits such as covering your cough and washing your hands often can help stop the spread of germs and prevent respiratory illnesses like the flu.

Contact the health district’s flu vaccine clinics for more information at (702) 759-0850 or www.SNHD.info.

Review-Journal reporter Wesley Juhl contributed to this report.