Influenza widespread in Sedgwick County, health department says

Rosa Chavira, a medical assistant at Hunter Health Clinic, gives a flu shot. (Sept. 14, 2012)
Rosa Chavira, a medical assistant at Hunter Health Clinic, gives a flu shot. (Sept. 14, 2012) File photo

Kansas is a red state in more than one way this winter – it’s one of 13 states with high levels of influenza.

A map put out by the U.S. Outpatient Influenza-like Illness Surveillance Network uses the colors red and dark orange to depict the spread of flu throughout the country. Kansas was red, the highest level, for the week ending Jan. 11.

The flu still is hitting Sedgwick County residents hard.

“We have not peaked yet in Sedgwick County. We’re actually still climbing,” Claudia Blackburn, the county’s health department director, told commissioners Wednesday.

Statewide, the flu peaked the week ending Dec. 28, she said.

The state has reported three deaths this season due to flu, she said. Flu cases are not reported to the Kansas Department of Health and Environment, only deaths. So Sedgwick County could not provide an exact number of flu cases.

Via Christi Hospitals Wichita and Wesley Medical Center have seen an increase in the percentage of emergency department visits because of flu-like illnesses since October, the start of the flu season. In October, flu was responsible for less than 1 percent of emergency visits. For the week ending Jan. 11, that had jumped to almost 2.5 percent.

Signs and symptoms of flu include a fever, cough, sore throat, chills, headache and body aches. The flu can last five to seven days and usually does not include diarrhea or vomiting. Blackburn encouraged people to stay home from school or work until they are symptom-free for 24 hours without the use of any medication.

Flu vaccines still are available in Sedgwick County, Blackburn said.

She estimated about 40 percent of the population has been vaccinated. The vaccine, she said, is about 60 percent effective.

“If you haven't been vaccinated, we really do recommend doing it,” Blackburn said.

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