TOPEKA—The Kansas Department of Health and Environment Friday announced it had identified the first influenza cases of the 2011-2012 flu season in Kansas.
With the announcement, local and state health officials remind Kansans it’s not too late to get a flu shot. “If they’ve not already done so, they should get their yearly vaccination against influenza now,” said Janel Rose with the Barton County Health Department.
On Dec. 21, the Kansas Health and Environmental Laboratories confirmed influenza in specimens from two adults from the same workplace in northwest Kansas. Neither patient had reported receiving an influenza vaccination. Five coworkers were also ill with symptoms of influenza.
“There is stil time to get the vaccination,” Rose said. The height of the season has yet to arrive.
“Flu has arrived once again in the state. Although flu activity is now low, it normally rises during the holidays before peaking around February. Influenza can continue to circulate through spring, and the flu can be unpredictable,” said KDHE Secretary and State Health Officer Robert Moser, MD. “There is still time for everyone to get a flu vaccination to protect themselves, their loved ones and the community.”
Influenza vaccination is effective for reducing the chances of getting sick and of spreading influenza to others. Additional ways to avoid spreading influenza include covering coughs and sneezes, washing your hands, and staying home when sick.
All persons six months and older are recommended to receive an annual influenza vaccine. This is especially important for anyone at high risk of complications or who is caring for, or in regular contact with, an infant less than six months of age. Babies this age are too young to be vaccinated and are more vulnerable to the complications from influenza disease.
On average, five to 20 percent of the U.S. population contracts influenza yearly and more than 200,000 people are hospitalized with complications. Older people, pregnant women, young children, and people with certain health conditions are at high risk for serious complications. Serious complications of the influenza can lead to pneumonia and even death.
Symptoms of influenza include fever, headache, extreme tiredness, dry cough, and muscle aches. Complications can include pneumonia, ear and sinus infections, and dehydration; influenza may also worsen other chronic conditions.
Influenza was documented as a cause of death for 31 Kansans in the 2009-2010 influenza season; in the 2010-2011 flu season, there were 14 documented deaths from influenza. However, influenza is often not listed on death certificates because laboratory tests may not show influenza by the time pneumonia or other complications develop, said State Epidemiologist Charles Hunt. “The actual numbers of influenza-related deaths are likely much higher and can vary substantially from year to year,” said Hunt.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that as many as 3,300 to nearly 49,000 influenza-associated deaths occurred during influenza seasons between 1976-1977 and 2006-2007, depending on the severity of the season.
For information on receiving the influenza vaccine, contact a health care provider or the local health department. Visit www.kdheks.gov/flu for influenza facts.