Editorial

Putting virus outbreaks in perspective

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Diseases have been prominent on the Gazette's front page in recent days, from Tuesday's story about Community Hospital's preparations to deal with Ebola, to the confirmation of the enterovirus to a death associated with the West Nile virus.

Ebola victims die a horrible death, and while there officially have been about 5,000 deaths among fewer than 10,000 cases, worldwide, the vast majority of them in Africa, some believe the actual numbers are much higher.

There have been about five deaths from the new, polio-like enterovirus in the United States, and West Nile virus, carried by infected birds and mosquitoes, has claimed about 1,600 American lives since it was first reported here in 1999.

While West Nile is relatively common in Southwest Nebraska, enterovirus is an unknown and we aren't likely to be exposed to Ebola.

Influenza, however, is another story.

Every year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 200,000 people are hospitalized for the flu, and anywhere from 3,000 to 49,000 Americans die each year from complications from the flu.

That's why it's important to ignore the hysteria and get a dose of this year's flu vaccine.

Influenza -- not the "stomach flu," manifests itself through symptoms such as a temperature of 100 or higher, sudden and unexplained body aches, body chills not relate to a cold environment, tiredness or lack of energy.

While it can make anyone sick, it's especially important that the following receive vaccinations: young children, older people, pregnant women or people with chronic lung diseases like asthma, COPD, diabetes, heart disease, neurologic conditions and certain other long-term health conditions.

The U.S. flu season typically peaks between December and February, so it's important to get vaccinated as soon as possible for the best protection.

The Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services has confirmed three cases of flu, all in Douglas County.

For more information, visit the DHHS website at www.dhhs.ne.gov/flu or www.cdc.gov/flu.

Contact your healthcare provider or county health department for information about getting a flu shot.

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