There have been two more deaths from the flu reported in Clark County in the past week, bringing the total to three this season, according to the Southern Nevada Health District.
All three of the fatal cases were in people 65 or older, according to the health district’s weekly flu surveillance report released on Friday. At this time last season, there had been only one death.
There have been 102 hospitalizations in Clark County related to confirmed cases of the flu, compared with just 24 at this time last season.
Flu season has come earlier this year, and it’s hitting Nevada especially hard, new data from the federal Centers from Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) confirm.
“Seven states (including Nevada) and Puerto Rico experienced high flu activity this week,” the CDC’s Kristen Nordlund said. “The South and parts of the West have started their flu season, while other parts of the country are still seeing little flu activity.”
The other states with high activity on the CDC surveillance report are in the South: Texas, Arkansas, Mississippi, Alabama, South Carolina and Georgia. Louisiana, which had been the only state with high activity level until it was joined by Texas last week, was not ranked this week because of insufficient data.
The CDC’s weekly flu surveillance report is based on reports from outpatient health care providers of illness that appears to be the flu, though not all cases are confirmed through testing and some could be other types of respiratory illness. Levels are determined by degree of deviation from baseline activity for the jurisdiction.
Nevada tops pharmacy’s flu index
Meanwhile, Nevada rose this week to the top of a state-by-state flu index compiled by drug store giant Walgreens. The Walgreens index is based on levels of antiviral prescription medication used to treat the flu, such as Tamiflu, that are dispensed at its branches across the country. Las Vegas is now the second highest area or market in the country for flu activity.
Martha Framsted, a spokeswoman for the Nevada Department of Health and Human Services, said state officials are also seeing a spike.
“We have seen higher-than-usual influenza-like illness activity and reports of flu outbreaks the past two weeks in Clark, Washoe, Carson, Douglas and most rural counties,” she said.
“We expect these numbers to continue rising.”
However, the state agency does not currently have reason to believe that this year’s strains of the flu are more harmful than strains in previous years, she said.
What’s more, most of the lab-confirmed flu cases are strains of the flu that have “excellent coverage in this year’s flu vaccines,” Framsted said.
Vaccines appear effective
“Given that these strains are well-covered by this year’s seasonal influenza vaccines, it is possible that many people who are ill have not been vaccinated,” she said. “Those who have been vaccinated with any of this year’s seasonal flu vaccines are at lower risk of contracting the flu than those who have not. If they do get the flu, they will likely have a less severe course of illness.”
Across the state, there have been at least two other deaths from the flu, one in Washoe County and another in Carson City, she said.
If you develop flu symptoms such as a fever higher than 100 degrees, along with a cough or sore throat, “your medical provider can treat you with antiviral medication such as Tamiflu if you are seen within 48 hours of the beginning of your symptoms,” she said. “Such treatment can make your illness less severe and help you get healthy more quickly.”
According to the CDC, “everyone 6 months of age and older should get a flu vaccine every season with rare exception.”
Flu shots typically require no copay with most forms of insurance.