High levels of influenza have struck most regions of Kansas, and health officials say it’s not too late to get a flu vaccine.
Six outbreaks have been confirmed during the 2016-17 season in Kansas: two in Leavenworth County and one each in Osage, Harvey, Cherokee and Saline counties, according to a spokesman with the Kansas Department of Health and Environment.
Cases of the flu aren’t always reported, however, so people should take precautions regardless of where they live, he said.
“If people haven’t already gone and received their flu vaccine, they need to make sure they get to their primary care physician, a Little Clinic, a walk-in clinic where they can get their vaccine,” said Karen Bally, director of infection prevention at Via Christi Hospitals in Wichita.
Via Christi has seen an increase in not only the flu, but also other respiratory viruses. People should get vaccinated while also washing their hands or using hand sanitizer, Balley said.
Cheryl Donelan, manager of quality at Wesley Healthcare in Wichita, said that system also has seen an increase in the flu – about a 50 percent rise since the same time period last year.
“We’ve seen a significant uptick since Christmas and January,” Donelan said. “This could go on for two to three more months. Get it (the vaccine) now, get that immunity built up now and you’ll be protected through spring and we’ll start seeing less of it in the next couple months.”
Influenza or pneumonia contributed to or was the direct cause of 903 deaths among Kansas residents during the 2015-16 flu season, according to the KDHE. Influenza and pneumonia were eighth among leading causes of death in Kansas in 2015.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention ranked Kansas in the highest category for influenza-like illnesses for the third week of influenza season, alongsideOklahoma, Alabama, South Carolina and New Jersey.
Influenza vaccine is recommended for nearly everyone 6 months and older.
Flu symptoms include fever, dry cough, extreme tiredness and muscle aches. Complications can include pneumonia, ear and sinus infections and dehydration.
Depending on the severity of the flu season, 5 to 20 percent of the population may get the flu each year. During the peak of the 2015-16 flu season in Kansas, approximately 3 percent of all health care visits in clinics were due to flu-like illness, according to KDHE.