The availability of flu vaccine is spotty in Lincoln after demand rose this week, according to the Lincoln-Lancaster County Health Department.

Some health care providers and pharmacies are out of vaccine and others are getting very low, according to the local weekly influenza report.

People should call ahead to make sure a pharmacy has vaccine on a given day, said Tim Timmons, communicable disease program supervisor for the Health Department.

Many pharmacies will not provide the vaccine to children younger than 9, he said.

People who can't get the vaccine should reduce their risk, Timmons said.

* Avoid large crowds.

* Avoid being around people who are symptomatic.

* Wash hands frequently, with soap and water, which, Timmons said, is better at getting rid of bacteria than antiseptic wipes.   

Local demand for the influenza vaccine rose after the department reported two Lancaster County deaths, a man in his 60s and a 2-year-old boy, both in the high-risk categories.

Reports of widespread flu outbreaks are common across large portions of the country.

The percent of people visiting Lincoln doctor's offices and hospitals with flu-like symptoms this week was similar to last week. But that does not mean influenza has peaked in our area, Timmons said.

It will take several additional weeks of data before the department can determine whether the illness has peaked, he said.

Reach Nancy Hicks at 402-473-7250 or nhicks@journalstar.com.