Influenza activity is high in Kansas, and health officials here are encouraging everyone six months of age and older to get vaccinated, if they have not already done so this season.
According to the Kansas Department of Health and Environment, based on data from the Outpatient Influenza-like Illness Surveillance Network (ILINet), influenza activity is high and widespread within the state. During the week ending Jan. 10, 2014, five percent of outpatient visits to ILINet clinic sites were due to influenza-like illness. To date, influenza or pneumonia has directly caused or contributed to 510 deaths reported in Kansas during the current influenza season (since Sept. 1, 2013), and among those, three deaths were attributed directly to influenza.
A distinguishing feature of this influenza season appears to be the re-emergence of the 2009 influenza A/H1N1 strain as the dominating virus. This virus, which caused the 2009 influenza pandemic, caused more illness in children and young adults, compared to older adults.
“In Kansas, young adults have typically had the lowest influenza vaccination rates, so we can’t emphasize enough the importance of getting a flu shot for this segment of the population,” said Robert Moser, M.D., KDHE Secretary and State Health Officer. “We encourage businesses to consider recommending their employees get vaccinated if they haven’t and to provide time away from work to accomplish this goal if necessary. Employers should also encourage their workers to stay home when ill.”
“The combination of the 2009 influenza A/H1N1 being the dominating strain and low vaccination rates among children and young adults could be setting the stage for a bad influenza season,” said D. Charles Hunt, MPH, State Epidemiologist at KDHE. “If you have not had your flu vaccination for this season, now is the time.”
In addition to getting vaccinated, avoid spreading the flu virus by covering coughs and sneezes, washing your hands, and staying home when you are sick.
On average, five to 20 percent of the U.S. population contracts the flu yearly, and more than 200,000 people are hospitalized with flu complications. During the peak of the 2012-2013 influenza season in Kansas, approximately six percent of all health care visits in ILINet clinics were due to influenza-like illness. Influenza or pneumonia contributed to or was the direct cause of 1,444 deaths among Kansas residents during the 2012-2013 influenza season. Influenza and pneumonia was the eighth leading cause of death in 2012 in Kansas.
Nearly all persons six months and older are recommended to receive a flu vaccine every year. Vaccination is especially important for protecting those at high risk for serious flu complications, including young children, pregnant women, adults 65 years and older, and anyone with chronic health conditions like asthma, heart disease, and diabetes. Those caring for, or in regular contact with, an infant less than six months of age should also be immunized. At this age, babies are too young to be vaccinated and are more vulnerable to complications from influenza.
Symptoms of the flu include: fever, headache, extreme tiredness, dry cough and muscle aches. Complications can include pneumonia, ear and sinus infections and dehydration; the flu might also worsen other chronic conditions.