Illustration by Cierra Pedro

Seven Things to Know About This Season’s Vicious Flu Cycle

Despite the fact that February is almost over and spring is in sight, flu season is ongoing. Dr. Michael Johnson, the director of community health with the Southern Nevada Health District, says there are things people should know about this strain of influenza.

The season is longer than people think.

Many associate the spread of the virus with winter months. However, Johnson says it typically runs until late April or early March. “It tends to run a little longer here because of our climate,” he says.

Flu season is pretty bad in Southern Nevada.

As of right now, there are more people getting the virus than in previous years.

According to the Southern Nevada Health District, there have been 1,003 confirmed cases of influenza, compared to 415 cases during the same period last year.

It’s not too late to get the flu shot.

“People think if they didn’t get vaccinated in October, November or December, it’s too late,” Johnson says. “It isn’t, and it’s still recommended.” Getting a flu shot doesn’t completely guarantee people won’t get sick. “It won’t offer 100 percent protection, but it will increase your chances of not getting it,” Johnson adds. “It will certainly protect others around you who might have a compromised immune system.”

There are other easy preventative methods.

Johnson says people can take simple measures to stay healthy, such as regular handwashing and covering the mouth when coughing and sneezing. “They’re common sense approaches to stop the spread of germs,” Johnson says.

If you get sick, stay home.

It’s not just staying home when feeling ill, but also taking adequate time to make sure the body fully recovers. There have been 794 hospitalizations (as of February 23) this year compared to 303 at the same point last year, according to the health district.

If symptoms worsen, see a primary care physician. Johnson says it’s best to get in within two or three days. That way, patients can receive antiviral medications that can help alleviate symptoms.

If people have tried over-the-counter medications yet still have difficulty breathing and experience severe vomiting, they should consider going to the emergency room.

This can be deadly.

In Southern Nevada, there have been 24 deaths so far this season, compared to nine last year in the same period. While it is more common to see deaths in vulnerable age groups, such as young children or people older than 65, the flu can still kill seemingly healthy individuals in their twenties. “It’s rare, but it still can occur,” Johnson says. “That usually is because of complications from the flu, such as a bacterial pneumonia or an infection that can lead to sepsis.”

As bad is it is for everyone, it can be worse for vulnerable populations.

Each season, young children, older individuals and people with immune-compromised systems are always told to take extra precautions. However, for the homeless, especially those living in encampments, influenza can be all the more harmful.