News about COVID-19, a new coronavirus originating in Wuhan, China, spread quickly. However, Nebraskans have a greater risk of catching another illness: The flu.

Flu activity is currently widespread in Nebraska, according to estimates on the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) website. Of the 46,145 influenza diagnostic tests performed so far in the 2019-2020 season, 11,778 were positive, according to the most recent DHHS Nebraska influenza surveillance report.

The report features data collected by DHHS and its state partners. The numbers shared do not account for people who caught the flu and did not visit their doctor.

Additionally, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates between 26 to 36 million flu illnesses in the U.S. from Oct. 1, 2019, to Feb. 8, 2020.

The young, elderly, immunosuppressed – or people, such as cancer patients, with a compromised immune system – are most at risk for catching the flu, said Dr. Debra Esser, Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Nebraska’s (BCBSNE) chief medical officer.

“Those who did not get their flu shot are at risk as well,” Esser said. “However, everyone can take steps to prevent the spread of illness.”
Flu prevention tips include:
• Staying home when you don’t feel well or have a fever
• Practicing good handwashing skills
• Covering your mouth and nose when coughing or sneezing
• Swapping handshakes for fist or elbow bumps when greeting people

“It sounds humorous, but it can keep you from getting sick,” Esser said. “It’s important for all of us to practice healthy habits to protect ourselves and our loved ones.”

For more information about the 2019-2020 flu season, visit the CDC’s website.

More about COVID-19

Twenty-nine countries, including the U.S., have confirmed COVID-19 cases, according to the CDC.

Nebraska facilities, including the University of Nebraska Medical Center, are treating and quarantining evacuees. Learn more in this Omaha World-Herald article.

BCBSNE will continue to monitor COVID-19 and provide updates as needed.

For more articles like this one, visit the health and wellness tab.