Influenza is spreading through Kansas like wildfire. Reported cases are still on the rise across the state and the infection hasn’t reached its climax this season. So far, three flu deaths have been reported this season by the Kansas Department of Health and Environment.
Jackie Chase, USD 257 district nurse, said the schools haven’t seen a lot of flu-related absences yet. She’s hoping it stays that way. Chase works at the high school and middle school while Kim Peterson, another nurse, works with the elementary schools.
“We had a flu shot clinic earlier this year for students to help prevent illness,” Chase said.
The schools have hand santizer stations and encourage children to regularly wash their hands. When a student is sent to the nurse’s office Chase checks for the common symptoms: sore throat, muscle or body aches, cough and fever.
“If a student has a temperature of 100 degrees or higher they are sent home and not allowed to return to school until they have been fever-free for 24 hours without fever reducing medication,” Chase said.
Students aren’t the only ones who get sent home for a fever. Faculty have the same go-home, and get-well rules. Taking this precaution helps slow the spread of influenza to faculty and other students. It is important to know the difference between other viruses and influenza. The “stomach flu” is often confused with influenza, Chase said.
“The stomach flu really is a stomach virus that people mislabel,” Chase explained. “Occasionally people will have vomiting with influenza though.”
Chase said getting the vaccine is very important every year. Strains of the flu are not always the same.
“The flu mutates every year,” Chase said. “When developing the vaccine for the year they try to predict which strains will resurface in the upcoming season.”
H1N1 has made an appearance once again. The strain made its way through the United States in 2009 causing a pandemic and affecting thousands. Because influenza is a respiratory virus it can spread easily. When symptoms start to appear seeking medical attention is encouraged.
“Influenza knocks you through a loop,” Chase said. “Your body feels like it’s been hit by a truck.”
KDHE says the percentage of patients seeking care for such viruses increased from 1.6 percent in the week ending Dec. 14 to 4.6 percent in the week ending Dec. 28. Since the flu season started at the end of September there have been 570 cases reported.
Influenza should be taken seriously. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, over a period of 30 years, between 1976 and 2006, estimates of flu-associated deaths in the United States range from a low of about 3,000 to a high of about 49,000 people.
It isn’t too late for someone to obtain the flu shot. DeeDee Martin, chief nursing officer for SEK Multi-County Health Department, said the department still has available vaccines.
“We have around 100 vaccines left and we’re discounting the vaccines to $20,” Martin said.
Martin said the department accepts Medicare Part B, KanCare and Blue Cross & Blue Shield.
Those who have been exposed to the flu before getting the vaccine may still have a chance of becoming ill. The vaccine takes two weeks to become effective.
To contact the SEK Multi-County Health Department Allen County office call 620-365-2191.
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