Flu outbreaks add to health concerns


Photographer: Photo taken from Joint Base Langley-Eustis

Amid health concerns, flu cases are being overshadowed. Washing hands and getting vaccinated are some ways to protect individuals.

Tyler Hofmann, Staff Reporter

The flu outbreaks of 2020 have become a bigger issue than the Coronavirus epidemic, spreading through 46 states seemingly without stopping. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, this year alone a record-breaking 105 children have died from the influenza out of 4,800 total infected, and 9.7 million flu illnesses were recorded, 87,000 of which were hospitalized.

Nevada alone has confirmed over 11 flu related fatalities since the start of the new year, only one recorded death being at infant age. This is typical during the flu season, but add up greatly nationwide.

The CDC urges vaccinations before the onset of the epidemic, although it isn’t a guaranteed prevention. It only lowers risk for catching the illness. The flu this season carries unexpected symptoms that one may not recognize straight away, which may be what’s causing so many fatalities, Dr. Buddy Creech said in an interview with Fox News. Gastrointestinal symptoms occur mainly in children, for example, which can cause parents to delay the idea that it’s related to the influenza. 

“The flu typically hits children and old people the hardest,” family doctor Brian Passalacqua said. “If you’ve got asthma or a pre-existing condition that’s an additional risk.”

There is no outright cure for the flu just as there’s no outright case, but there are ways to avoid possibly catching any of the strands.

“Avoid sick people if possible on busses, in classes,” Dr. Passalacqua said. “If you can separate that’s a big [help]. Hand washing is huge, if it’s done properly it actually cuts transmission a lot.”

Twenty seconds minimum to lather the hands in soap is very effective, as well as keeping up a healthy immune system, which will help the body fight off sickness. Another route is tricky and controversial: vaccines.

“I would say keep current with vaccines,” Dr. Passalacqua said. “Most kids keep up, but I think a lot do skip flu shots and I think it offers a lot of additional protection. I am probably pro-vaccine, there’s a lot of fake news and such, but I think it’s a good tool. It affects everybody. […] This season’s vaccine is about 45 to 50 percent effective. It’s not bad, it’s better than some years.”

Although Dr. Passalacqua hasn’t seen record breaking flu related deaths, he has seen a few as early as the past several months. Flu related sickness aren’t uncommon in the hospitals anymore and have been occurring since last summer, Dr. Passalacqua said. His only concern is in the frequent cases that don’t seem to be disappearing from Reno any time soon, making it important for students to be mindful of their health.

“It is occasionally quite serious,” Dr. Passalacqua said. “It’s more dangerous to us [in comparison to coronavirus] because it’s here.”

More info can be offered by one’s primary care providers and from the Washoe County Health Department.