Kansas City, MO – Flu season typically doesn't start until the beginning of October, but area hospitals are already experiencing a spike in cases.
Emergency rooms throughout the state are seeing an unusually high number of people with flu-like illnesses.
Kit Wagar is with the Missouri Department of Health and says the rate has doubled in the Kansas City area, compared to this time last year.
Specifically, flu-like illnesses now account for about four percent of all ER visits.
Wagar says most cases have been mild, but that children have been disproportionately affected.
"Sixty percent of these flu-like cases were in that 5 to 17 year age group." Wagar said. "We know that that's also the age group that's in school. And so we're really working hard with schools and local public health agencies to tell schools that if kids are sick, they need to go home. If they can't go home, than they have to be isolated from the well kids."
Wagar says many of the flu-like illnesses likely stem from the new H1N1 virus.
Seasonal influenza typically thrives in the winter, but the H1N1 virus has been spreading a lot during the warmer months.
Wagar says the best way to deal with the situation is through simple avoidance measures, like frequent hand-washing, covering one's cough, and staying home when feeling ill.
Funding for health care coverage on KCUR has been provided by the Health Care Foundation of Greater Kansas City.
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