This flu season is proving to be a demanding one with the virus showing up earlier than usual, according to a key local health administrator.
That finding tended to mirror national data, with the Centers For Disease Control reporting flu in almost every state even before the end of December. CDC officials said positive flu diagnoses doubled over just three weeks, and described the prevalence in Kansas as “widespread.”
Susanne Kufahl, administrator at the Riley County Health Department, said that since physicians are not generally required to report flu cases, it can be hard to get reliable data on its prevalence.
Instead, the community tries to calculate and prepare for the virus by what Kufahl calls “passive surveillance.”
“We’re in communication with schools, daycares and medical providers throughout the community who notify us when they start seeing symptoms,” Kufahl said.
Authorities said the easiest and most common way to decrease the likelihood of getting the flu virus is to get a flu shot.
The shot will start working in seven to 10 days and will decrease the likelihood of contracting the virus through March.
“If you haven’t gotten a shot yet, it is still a good idea,” Kufahl said. “Different types are available for individuals with different health conditions and ages.”
Flu vaccines are made in advance by researchers who try to predict what this year’s flu strain will look like based on strains in previous years.
“Informal reports say the flu vaccine is on target this year. However there are other viruses in the community that the vaccine doesn’t cover, but it does work,” Kufahl said.
In addition to a flu shot, covering your mouth when coughing, using hand sanitizer and washing your hands frequently will reduce the likelihood of getting the flu and other pesky illnesses.
Flu shots are available at many places locally including the Riley County Health Department.