It's being called one of the worst flu outbreaks in recent history as 47 states are now reporting widespread flu cases. And with two deaths in Nebraska already being blamed on the extremely contagious virus, local health officials are urging people to get vaccinated.
Officials at the Central District Health Department in Grand Island say there are several reasons people choose not to get vaccinated, but the number one excuse they hear is that people are afraid they'll actually contract the flu from the flu shot. But they say that's just a myth.
"It takes two weeks for the body to build up immunity towards influenza from receiving the vaccine," Katie Wichman, of the Central District Health Department, said. "So in those two weeks, if people are in contact with somebody that has influenza and they give it to the person who was just immunized and it's before that two–week period, their chances of coming down with influenza–like symptoms are just as likely as if they weren't immunized."
This is the worst case of influenza the state has seen in 10 years, Wichman said, causing record numbers of hospitalizations. She says the flu shot is crucial in preventing more deaths.
"It's most important that that's why people get vaccinated, because they could be spreading it to kids that aren't able to be vaccinated because they don't meet the age requirement, or those older adults whose immune system is so compromised that if they got sick, they would have severe complications because of it," she said.
There are a lot of differing opinions on whether or not the flu shot is safe and effective, but Grand Island mother Sheena McPeek says she wouldn't even consider not vaccinating her two young children.
"There's no 'if, and or but' on whether or not they get it -- I give it to them," she said. "I tell them, you're getting this, this is why. I would rather them protect themselves and not get sick and not have to be in the doctor's office and have medical bills out the ying yang, so I do it to protect them."
The Central District Health Department offers flu shots on Tuesdays during their walk-in clinic, but Wichman says they are taking special appointments for people who need to be seen right away or can't make it in on Thursday.
For more information, call the Central District Health Department at (308) 385-5175.