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Southern Nevada sees first deaths of flu season

Updated January 3, 2019 - 10:37 pm

Three people in Southern Nevada have died of the flu, marking the first deaths of the 2018-19 flu season, the Southern Nevada Health District said Thursday.

One child under 4 and two adults between the ages of 50 and 64 were killed by the illness, according to a news release.

“These flu-related deaths are tragic reminders that influenza is a serious illness,” Dr. Joe Iser, the district’s chief health officer, wrote in the release.

As of Dec. 22, 68 people were hospitalized with confirmed cases of the flu, compared with 330 during last winter’s aggressive flu season, which killed 60 people in Southern Nevada, including a 12-year-old boy whose parents have since decided to vaccinate their living children against the flu.

Though emergency room staff at Valley Hospital Medical Center have seen fewer patients with flu-related complications, a steady stream of patients with milder cases have tested positive for the flu, the hospital ER’s assistant medical director, Dr. Mike Barnum, told the Las Vegas Review-Journal Wednesday.

“It may be that it’s just not a terribly virulent strain this year,” Barnum said. “That would explain the fortunate lack of really severe complications and deaths.”

Still, the disease can be serious, especially for those younger than 5, those older than 65, pregnant women and people who have certain health conditions, according to the health district’s Dr. Fermin Leguen.

“The single best way to prevent seasonal flu is to get vaccinated each year, but good health habits like covering your cough and washing your hands often can help stop the spread of germs and prevent respiratory illnesses like the flu,” the health district’s release said.

It’s not too late to get vaccinated, Leguen said, though the immunization takes about two weeks to become effective.

Flu season typically peaks in January and February, the health district said. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, flu activity is still low in Nevada.

Contact Jessie Bekker at jbekker@reviewjournal.com or 702-380-4563. Follow @jessiebekks on Twitter. Contact Katelyn Newberg at knewberg@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0240. Follow @k_newberg on Twitter.

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