Health-care workers tout flu vaccines
Even though only one case of influenza has been diagnosed in Kansas this winter, it is still early in the season and the flu likely will strike before winter's end.
Dr. Philip Stevens predicts a severe flu season because there hasn't been a bad one in years.
"The best preventive is the flu shot, and it's not too late," Stevens said.
Flu vaccines are available at local doctors' offices, as well as the Leavenworth County Health Department in Leavenworth.
"People who have not yet been immunized, particularly those at high risk of complications of infection should continue to seek vaccine through ... January," said Frankie Jackson, administrative director of the health department.
The flu shot consists of three strains of the flu, which are based on the most prevalent strains from the previous year, according to Cushing Hospital nurse Anna Clark.
Although it is possible to catch a strain of the flu that is not in the shot, vaccination is the most effective way to prevent the flu, according to Clark.
Influenza already has been widespread in Alaska, and regional flu activity has been reported in Colorado. Of 47 health departments that reported, 33 have reported sporadic flu activity and 14 have reported no activity as of Dec. 18, according to a report from the national immunization program, a division of the Centers for Disease Control.
Clark recommends staying home and resting when sick with the flu, to prevent the rapid spread of the virus. She also encourages frequent hand-washing to prevent the spread of germs after sneezing or coughing.
Because antibiotics cannot help the virus, people can only treat the symptoms, such as taking ibuprofen for fever, according to Jackson.
"Good hand-washing is absolutely necessary," Clark said.
The flu is an infection of the throat, nose bronchial tubes and lungs, according to the national immunization program's report. It includes an abrupt onset of fever, sore muscles, sore throat and a nonproductive cough.
"Generally speaking, when people get influenza, they're very ill," Stevens said.
Vomiting and diarrhea are often mistaken for flu symptoms, according to Stevens, who has given more than 650 flu shots this winter.
Although October and November are optimal months to receive flu shots, people will still benefit from them now, according to Jackson.