Flu cases on rise
Flu season started earlier than usual this year and has already surpassed previous the past two years, according to the Kansas Department of Health and Environment’s influenza surveillance report.
The department receives weekly reports from 43 sites across the state listing the number of patients at clinics with flu-like illnesses, said Charlie Hunt, Kansas state epidemiologist. In the past two years, patients with flu symptoms were under 1 percent of total clinical patients, Hunt said; this year, 2.7 percent of patients were reported as having a flu-like illness.
Hunt said ecology, animals, weather and changes in viruses contribute to the rise of flu-like illness. Over the past decade, flu season’s timing and its severity have varied substantially from year to year, Hunt said.
“It’s not unexpected this time of year,” Hunt said. “It’s going up this year compared to the last couple of years, 2010 and 2011 ... so it’s hard to make direct comparisons. Last year the season was later than what we usually see; it didn’t peak until March, and usually we see it in January or February.”
Kathy Colson, clinic coordinator at the Lawrence-Douglas County Health Department, said flu season in Kansas generally starts in January and ends in March.
“Right now in Kansas, there has been a slight jump up already in the second week of December,” Colson said. “There has already been reports of flu cases, and that’s a little earlier than normal.”
Students in the Lawrence school district are taking standard precautions to prevent the spread of influenza, said Sonja Gaumer, nursing facilitator for the district. The students are taught how to wash their hands and how to cover their mouths and noses for coughs and sneezes. In addition, hand sanitizer is frequently used in classrooms.
“It’s a school; you have a little bit of everything,” Gaumer said. “We’ve had stomach bug, some fever, vomiting.
Gaumer and Julie Boyle, Lawrence school district spokeswoman, said students are not experiencing an unusually high number of flu cases.
“The people who have the most problems with the flu are the elderly and the newborns,” Boyle said. “Those are the people that tend to end up with secondary bacterial infections, and you’ll see them in the hospital.”
Residents at Brandon Woods at Alvamar Nursing Home have not seen a single flu case so far, said administrator Jerry Lindenbaum. All residents have received a flu shot.
Flu shots are still available at Lawrence Memorial Hospital.