Area health officials are stressing the importance of getting a flu shot following the death of a 12-year-old Beatrice boy.
Draven Findeis, a Beatrice Middle School student, died unexpectedly Wednesday at Children's Hospital & Medical Center in Omaha because of complications from the flu.
In an obituary posted on the Harman-Wright Mortuary website, Draven's family encouraged everyone to get a flu shot in his memory.
Draven was an avid artist and reader, his obituary said. The sixth-grader enjoyed video games, Legos, cartoons, super heroes, music, drawing, comic books and Taco Bell.
Survivors include his mother, Holly Jones of Beatrice, and father, Eric Findeis of Omaha. Services will be 2 p.m. Monday in Beatrice.
Draven's death is among the five confirmed in the state this flu season. The other deaths were adults older than 65.
Tim Timmons of the Lincoln-Lancaster County Health Department said only flu deaths of children, from newborn to 18, are required to be reported, so adult deaths related to the flu are sometimes unknown.
Officials with Public Health Solutions District Health Department in rural southeastern Nebraska said the flu virus is on the rise in the area it serves.
In Lancaster County, the number of people going to the doctor for flu-related symptoms continued to rise, with school-age children making up many of those numbers, based on the report for the week ending Dec. 22.
"Each year is different. And the flu seems to be impacting individuals under 20 years of age right now," Timmons said.
But older people are more likely to be hospitalized with the flu. Lincoln had 151 people enter the hospital for influenza-related illness the third week in December. More than half were older than 65.
"The trend is up right now," Timmons said. And a sharp upward curve like this puts stress on the health care system, he added.
"The flu is definitely increasing right now," said registered nurse Kate Lange, with the Public Health Solutions department. “We’re seeing H1N1 as the primary flu, and that’s the one we had back in 2000, when it was a new flu. That’s now a component of the vaccine and has been for several years.”
Lange said anyone experiencing fever, coughing or a sore throat should suspect the flu and see a doctor.
Lange said it’s too early in the season to predict if it will be a bad year for the flu, but stressed that it’s not too late to get a flu shot.
“That’s your best protection against the flu, even if it’s not 100 percent effective, and no vaccine is 100 percent effective,” she said. “That’s still your best protection against the flu. Otherwise, get enough rest, have a healthy diet, stay away from people with flu symptoms and go to your doctor if you think you have the flu.”
Lange said even into January and February it’s not too late to get a flu shot.