Cough. Sore throat. Runny nose. Chills. Aches. Fever.

It may just be a cold, but if you have these symptoms, it could also point to influenza or pneumonia.

Widespread sickness has been slowing down workplaces and putting schools and health care and nursing facilities on alert. Minatare public schools were closed Friday due to widespread sickness among students and staff.

Mitchell Care Center was on lockdown for nearly two weeks as residents and staff battled Influenza B. Visitors to the facility are still required to wear a mask to protect themselves and residents, but the lockdown was lifted Jan. 30. Administrator Stephanie Hahn said residents were required to stay in their rooms from Jan. 18-30. Several on the staff are now fighting Influenza A.

“It’s really hard for them,” Hahn said of residents staying in their rooms and the impact on the staff. “It’s not a pleasant time for anybody, really.”

Hahn said people should be taking precautions to prevent the spread of any sickness, whether it be in schools, workplaces or facilities such as Mitchell Care Center.

“I’ve just been even telling my kids to make sure they’re washing their hands really good,” Hahn said. “Try not to touch your face, your eyes, your nose, anything on your face. If you can’t wash your hands, use a hand sanitizer. If you’re sick, stay home as long as you can.”

While national attention has centered on the coronavirus (2019-nCoV), local officials are seeing more common sicknesses.

“We are seeing quite a bit of respiratory illness and influenza throughout the community,” Dr. Matthew Bruner, Regional West Health Services chief medical officer. “Despite the very real concern about the novel coronavirus, influenza is a bigger threat and it will continue to be for the next several weeks. If you haven’t gotten a flu vaccination, now is the time to get one.”

Whether it’s influenza or the novel coronavirus, Bruner said the hospital is prepared.

“It may not happen here, but we are prepared,” he said. “We are proactive not reactive. We have protocols in place and are in regular contact with the county and state health departments, as well as the CDC.”

Officials from Regional West said according to the Center for Disease Control, influenza activity is currently increasing nationwide. More than 8,600 laboratory-confirmed influenza-associated hospitalizations were reported in the U.S. from the beginning of October 2019 to the end of January 2020. The percentage of deaths attributed to influenza and pneumonia during that period is 6.7% and 68 pediatric deaths were reported. The CDC recommends everyone six months and older should get a flu shot annually.

We're always interested in hearing about news in our community. Let us know what's going on!


Mark McCarthy is a reporter with the Star-Herald and oversees the Gering Courier as editor. He can be reached at 308-632-9049 or via email at

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