Updated Dec. 11, 2019
Flu season is in full swing and already looks much more intense than a year ago.
The Southern Nevada Health District just reported that four people have died this year, compared to three by this time a year ago.
And 365 people have been hospitalized, versus 46 at this time in 2018.
Last year, 39 people in southern Nevada died of the flu. Is it going to be worse this year?
Dr. Fermin Leguen, the acting chief health officer of the Southern Nevada Health District, said it is difficult to predict just how serious a flu season is going to be, but so far, it has kept hospitals busy.
“In the beginning of the season, we are having more hospitalizations that in the same period last year,” he said.
He said a network of health organizations around the world monitor what flu strains are circulating, starting in Asia, and then work to get the right mix to combat those strains in the vaccine.
“The flu vaccine that is being offered is what is called a quadrivalent, meaning that it has four different strains of the influenza virus,” he said.
The flu vaccine is usually around 50 percent effective in preventing someone from getting sick with influenza. Last year, the effectiveness was just 29 percent, and while that sounds low, Dr. Leguen insists it is still important to get the vaccine.
“Sometimes the vaccine doesn’t match the strain or the virus circulating -- for example, last year -- but even when that happens, the vaccine is good [enough] to protect most of the people against severe complications of the flu," he said.
Dr. Leguen added that everyone over the age of 6 months should get the flu vaccine, especially those with suppressed immune systems, chronic conditions, pregnant women, people over 65 and young children.
(Editor's note: This interview originally aired Nov. 14, 2019)
Dr. Fermin Leguen, acting chief health officer, Southern Nevada Health District
You won’t find a paywall here. Come as often as you like — we’re not counting. You’ve found a like-minded tribe that cherishes what a free press stands for. If you can spend another couple of minutes making a pledge of as little as $5, you’ll feel like a superhero defending democracy for less than the cost of a month of Netflix.