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Flu in Kansas no longer widespread

  • The Wichita Eagle
  • Published Thursday, Feb. 20, 2014, at 6:33 p.m.
  • Updated Friday, Feb. 21, 2014, at 6:38 a.m.

Flu prevention

• Wash your hands frequently with soap and warm water or use alcohol-based hand sanitizer.

• Stay home when you are sick.

• Cough or sneeze into your elbow or a tissue.

• Get a flu vaccine every year.

Source: Kansas Department of Health and Environment

The height of this year’s flu season is likely coming to a close.

“It looks like this year was not as severe as last year,” said Robert Moser, a physician and secretary of the Kansas Department of Health and Environment.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says that Kansas has gone from having widespread flu to regional flu. It first reported widespread illness in December.

The most predominant flu strain this season is H1N1, which was commonly called “swine flu” when it caused a pandemic in 2009 and wasn’t part of that season’s vaccine. H1N1 was a part of this season’s vaccine.

Nationwide, the flu hit younger people especially hard this season, according to the CDC, with people between 18 and 64 representing 61 percent of all hospitalizations from flu.

That’s up from the past three years when that age group represented about 35 percent of those hospitalizations.

Deaths from flu followed the same trend, according to the CDC.

So far in Kansas, flu was reported as the direct cause of death for at least 25 people, compared with 58 people last season. Flu season is from September to May.

The number of deaths with flu or pneumonia as a contributing factor also is lower, from 919 last season to 477 this season.

There have also been fewer pneumonia deaths so far this season. There were 469 last season and 258 this season.

KDHE could not provide the names of the counties where the deaths occurred.

Moser said there were some reports of people receiving the vaccine this year and still getting the flu.

“Those actual cases were much less severe than they would have been without the vaccine,” he said.

The CDC says vaccination lowers the risk of having to go to the doctor by 60 percent.

Later in the spring, the KDHE will collect data on the number of flu vaccines that were actually administered, Moser said.

Each year, between 5 percent and 20 percent of the U.S. population gets the flu, and more than 200,000 people are hospitalized from flu complications, according to the KDHE.

Reach Kelsey Ryan at 316-269-6752 or kryan@wichitaeagle.com. Follow her on Twitter: @kelsey_ryan.

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