TOPEKA – Influenza activity has increased substantially in Kansas, and health officials are encouraging everyone six months of age and older to get vaccinated, if they have not already done so this season.
Based on data from the Outpatient Influenza-like Illness Surveillance Network (ILINet), influenza activity has increased in nearly every region of the state. Overall, more than 10 percent of patient visits to ILINet clinics during the week ending Dec. 20 were due to influenza-like illness, and Kansas is reporting “widespread” influenza activity.
From Sept. 1 through Dec. 20, 333 influenza- or pneumonia-related deaths have been reported in Kansas during the current influenza season, the Kansas Department of Health and Environment reported.
“Even though some circulating viruses may differ from the vaccine strain during the current season, influenza vaccination is still an important way to reduce the risk of serious complications and death,” said Charlie Hunt, state epidemiologist. “If you have not had your flu vaccination for this season, I encourage you to get one now.”
The influenza vaccination coverage rate was approximately 47 percent in Kansas during the 2013-2014 season, leaving more than half the population unprotected.
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 2013-2014 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 1,135 deaths among Kansas residents during the 2013-2014 influenza season. Influenza and pneumonia was the seventh leading underlying cause of death in 2013 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.