For the second week in a row, Douglas County reported a record number of new cases of influenza last week, continuing a season that has hit Nebraska early and hard.
The state’s most populous county, Douglas, recorded 898 cases during the week ending Saturday. That topped the 813 cases confirmed the preceding week, which was a record for any individual week.
About 3,300 cases of flu have been confirmed by testing in the county so far this season, nearly halfway to the 6,000-plus cases confirmed in all of 2017-18, the most recent nasty flu season.
Numbers also continue to climb nationally, according to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Nebraska and Iowa, which have seen a slower rise, were among 39 states with widespread flu activity, the highest category the agency reports.
Nebraska also was among 25 states reporting high levels of influenza-like illness. Not all patients get tested for the flu, so that measure is often used as a gauge of how much flu is out there.
Dr. Anne O’Keefe, senior epidemiologist with the Douglas County Health Department, said the actual number of county residents who’ve been sickened by flu almost certainly is higher than the numbers indicate.
The county also confirmed its second flu death of the season in an adult over age 65. Reporting of adult flu deaths isn’t mandatory. Outbreaks have been reported in seven long-term care facilities in the county.
How the season will play out, however, is far from certain. In previous seasons with early peaks, cases have slowed later on, O’Keefe said. But an early peak also could lead to another wave or two, possibly as people mix again over the New Year’s holiday and as children return to school next week.
The strain of flu virus that’s dominated so far in Nebraska is a type of influenza A called H1N1, which first turned up in 2009. But an influenza B strain that has been prevalent in other parts of the country has begun to surge. That strain typically shows up later in the season.
Both types hit younger people harder, which has been the case this season.
O’Keefe urged residents who haven’t gone under the needle to get a flu shot. High case counts can continue through March, which leaves a possible three months to go.
Even if the shot doesn’t prevent the flu entirely, O’Keefe said, it can lessen the severity of the illness and keep people out of the hospital — or worse. Most of the vaccine currently available protects against four strains, including those now circulating.
Getting the shot, she said, also helps protect those around us — the very young, the very old and those with compromised immune systems. It takes about two weeks to provide full protection.
1 of 17
Matthew Eledge and husband Elliot Dougherty plan to explain her out-of-the-ordinary birth to their daughter in terms she can understand: that her grandmother furnished the garden where she grew, and that her aunt, Lea Yribe, generously supplied the seeds.
One pothole did a passenger a favor when the ambulance he was in struck it, according to first responders. Gretna firefighters were taking a man suffering chest pain and a high heart rate to the hospital. While en route to Lakeside Hospital, the ambulance hit a pothole. The jolt returned the patient’s heart rate to normal.
Thought to be brain dead, doctors took former Creighton Bluejays play-by-play announcer T. Scott Marr off life support. Before his family settled on a funeral home, they decided to see their dad one more time. When they got there, he was awake and speaking.
Karla Perez was 22 weeks pregnant when she suffered a catastrophic brain bleed and was declared brain dead. Her unborn child was alive, but wouldn't survive delivery. So family and doctors kept her on life support. Angel was born eight weeks later.
Darnisha Ladd never imagined Snapchat would help save her life after she suffered a stroke. But needing a precise timeline of events, doctors and family relied on a post on the phone app and were able to give her a needed medication in time.
Lindsey and Derek Teten's triplets are one in a million. Literally. The Nebraska City couple's three daughters, born in late June 2017, are identical and were conceived without fertility treatments. The girls were the second set of spontaneous triplets born at Methodist Women's Hospital. The first set, also girls, was born in 2015.
What makes Jamey Dougall's health story unusual is his treatment plan. Dougall, who's legally blind, uses a special pair of glasses to see. He's seen his wife Kandice, his two daughters, and now, his favorite college football team — the Huskers.
Doctors diagnosed the paralysis that was creeping up Justin Chenier's legs as Guillain-Barre syndrome. It would become so serious that the Omaha man would nearly lose consciousness while screaming because of the pain. The syndrome was triggered by West Nile virus.
Kenze Messman's been diagnosed with several chronic illnesses. Sometimes her heart rate climbs, seizures send her to the floor and migraines leave her in the dark. And one of the ailments causes the 17-year-old to have allergic reactions to almost everything.
The skin on Sharan Bryson's leg was black from lack of circulation. She felt nothing but a sharp, stabbing pain. The leg was dead, and her best option was amputation. Bryson bounced back and put her hard work to the test by running a 5K.
Chase Tiemann has had numerous surgeries in his young life, including the amputation of his left arm. The Omaha boy has a condition that causes tumors — sometimes benign, sometimes cancerous — to form on his body. To boost his spirits after amputation, the Papillion Fire Department named Chase an honorary firefighter.
Wesley Woods battled heart disease for 20 years. He'd racked up nine heart attacks, multiple surgeries and one heart transplant. He was tired of hospitals. Tired of chest pain. Tired of feeling tired. Woods was lucky — he received a second transplant.
Amber Kudrna wasn't sure she'd be able to have a child of her own. After two kidney transplants, doctors gave the Omaha woman a laundry list of potential pregnancy complications. Kudrna and husband Adam weighed their options and, in September 2018, welcomed a baby boy.
Joe Nolan couldn't take his son James' pain away. But he could find a way to share it. Nolan got a tattoo that arched across his head, just like his son's scar. James was born with a handful of ailments, including one that regularly requires his skull to be reshaped.