Health
7:59 pm
Sun February 10, 2013

Relief In Sight? Region Hit Hard By Flu

The flu is widespread in Kansas and Missouri. It has been an especially rough season, but some say relief may be on the way.

Charlie Hunt, the state epidemiologist for Kansas, has this message for anyone thinking they might have the flu:

“If you’re ill, just stay home,” he says (unless one needs medical attention).

Hunt says the flu hit early and hard this winter. Typically, it gets underway the end of January and peaks in February. This flu season, cases were already picking up by December.

The flu has been relentless in places like Johnson County.

Nancy Tausz, disease containment director for the county health department, says the vaccine hasn’t always been available, and all school districts in the county have reported absenteeism of over ten percent.

Last week, however, Tausz saw a small but noticeable shift in flu activity.

“It has dropped a little bit, just a little bit,” says Tausz. “So thank goodness it’s not continuing to go up like it was the last couple months.”

Johnson County Flu Report for the week of February 2, 2013
Johnson County Flu Report for the week of February 2, 2013
Credit Johnson County Department of Health and Environment

The flu is unpredictable and cyclical. Tausz cautions that it’s hard to say what the drop really means, though she's hopeful it may be a sign the flu is finally on the decline.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently reported that nationwide, flu levels are starting to fall.  

Across the state line in Missouri, the state health department has also noted a change in flu activity.

“Just recently, we’re starting to see that number [of flu cases] drop off,” says Gena Terlizzi, a spokesperson with the department.

Like Tausz, Terlizzi cautions against drawing any conclusions just yet.

“It’s a little too early to tell whether we’ve already reached our peak and now we’re dropping down, or whether this is just an ebb and flow of the flu season," says Terlizzi.

Terlizzi also says flu levels are much higher at the moment compared to this time last year. She says Missouri has experienced over 25,000 flu cases so far this season, compared to a five year annual average of 18,000 cases.

Despite the winter peaks, flu season lasts through May. That has health officials reminding people it’s not too late to get a flu shot.

“Influenza is still a substantial public health problem,” says Hunt, with the Kansas Department of Health and Environment. “It’s always in the top ten leading causes of death. It causes substantial morbidity, lots of lost time from work and from school, lots of visits to health care providers, lots of hospitalizations.”

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