It’s here, but doctor says vaccine works
In the words of Tonganoxie's longtime physician, Philip Stevens, "It's a bad year, and it's an early year."
Stevens, who has practiced in Tonganoxie since 1955, said he's treated 15 people this fall who he believes had type A influenza, the more severe strain of the virus. None of them had received a flu vaccination, Stevens said.
In addition, he's treated many more patients with bronchitis.
"I have not sent anybody to the hospital yet," Stevens said. "There is medication to treat the influenza virus with, and I've prescribed it."
At Tonganoxie public schools, it appears that illness hasn't struck hard yet. But it may be starting.
At Tonganoxie High School, only 14 students were ill on Monday, according to attendance secretary Barbara Easter.
"I don't think it's been any more than that for almost a month," she said.
Those students who are ill are complaining of respiratory problems, and others have headaches and stomach aches.
"Some of them are gone for a couple of days, and some of them have been gone for a whole week," Easter said.
Next door, at Tonganoxie Junior High, secretary Louise Holton on Monday reported about 30 students were out of school because of illness.
"But we still have them going home," she said. "They're dropping pretty fast. It wasn't this bad last week."
On Monday, more than 50 of the 800 students who attend the elementary school were out of class, assistant principal Tammie George reported. That absentee rate is higher than a normal day, she said, but not as high as at the peak of flu season.
Stevens recommends anyone who is feeling achy and running a temperature of 101 degrees or higher should see a doctor.
He suggests that people rest, force liquids and avoid inclement weather.
"You wouldn't want to get out in the snow," he said.
And Stevens warned that people with influenza should not take aspirin because of the danger of Reyes syndrome.
Influenza should be taken seriously.
Each year, complications related to the flu kill an estimated 36,000 people, according to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. During the past flu season in Kansas -- October 2002 to May 2003, more than 1,600 Kansans died of influenza- and pneumonia-related illness.
The onset of influenza in Tonganoxie is earlier than normal this year, Stevens said.
"Usually, it starts the week after Christmas because people go home. People are going to go home, even if they're dying. This year, I guess they did it at Thanksgiving."