KDHE records flu season's first case

0 | KDHE, Health Care Delivery, Immunizations

— The Kansas Department of Health and Environment has confirmed that an adult in south central Kansas has tested positive for influenza.

The announcement marks the beginning of the 2012-13 flu season.

“We knew it was coming because it happens every year,” said Charlie Hunt, state epidemiologist at KDHE. “But, still, influenza remains a leading cause of death every year as it has since recordkeeping began.”

Last year’s flu season, he said, was a factor in more than 1,300 deaths among Kansas residents.

“As a direct cause of death, influenza is a relatively small portion of the total because by the time someone is in bad enough shape and ends up in a hospital with pneumonia, it’s not recoverable. It doesn’t show up in the lab tests,” Hunt said. “But we know that pneumonia is one of most common complications of influenza.”

Combined, influenza and pneumonia were the state’s eighth leading cause of death last year, trailing cancer, heart disease, lung disease, accidental injury, stroke, Alzheimers Disease, and diabetes.

Citing confidentiality concerns, Hunt declined to say whether the individual who tested positive was a man or a woman.

KDHE’s south central region includes Barber, Butler, Cimarron, Cowley Edwards, Harper, Harvey, Kingman, Kiowa, Pawnee, Pratt, Reno, Sedgwick, Stafford, and Sumner counties.

The case was confirmed Oct. 31.

KDHE issued a statement Tuesday, reminding the public that “…it’s not too late to get vaccinated against influenza. Influenza vaccine is recommended for nearly everyone six months of age and older to reduce the risk of becoming ill with the flu and reduce the risk of spreading the flu to others. This is especially important for anyone at high risk of complications, and for anyone 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.”

KDHE surveys, Hunt said, showed that only about 40 percent of the state’s population was vaccinated against influenza last year.

Flu shots are available at most pharmacies, doctors’ offices, and county health departments.

KDHE also encouraged people to avoid spreading the flu by staying home if they’re ill, covering coughs and sneezes, and frequent hand-washing.

Historically, flu seasons peak in January or February.

Flu symptoms include fever, dry cough, fatigue and muscle aches.

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