As we enter the month of February, influenza continues to be a widespread problem across the state of Kansas. Today, state officials are urging Kansans to take precautions to avoid getting and spreading the flu. This message is especially important for older adults who are at greater risk of suffering potentially life-threatening complications associated with the flu.
Secretaries for both the Kansas Department for Health and Environment and the Kansas Department for Aging and Disability Services encourage older adults to get the influenza vaccine, if they haven’t already, and seek treatment when they experience early signs of flu.
“The flu season is taking a heavy toll on people 65 and older all across the country,” KDHE Sec. Robert Moser, M.D., said. “Seeing your doctor at the first signs of the flu can help prevent serious complications, such as pneumonia.”
KDHE continually monitors the percentage of individuals seeking medical care in selected outpatient clinics who exhibit influenza-like illness, in a system known as ILINet. Currently, 5 percent of Kansans are showing flu-like symptoms.
“Flu season has arrived earlier and impacted more people than in recent years,” Aging Sec. Shawn Sullivan said. “We want older adults to know how to avoid getting sick, and we want them to see the doctor quickly if they do become sick.”
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, nationwide, older adults account for about 60 percent of flu-related hospitalizations and 90 percent of flu-related deaths. During the first half of January 2013, the hospitalization rate for people 65 years and older climbed from just less than 50 hospitalizations per 100,000 people (week ending Dec. 29), to almost 98 hospitalizations per 100,000 people (week ending Jan. 19). Previously, the highest hospitalization rate among older adults was 73.7 hospitalizations recorded during the 2007-2008 influenza season.
In Kansas, so far this flu season (from October 2012-current), about 640 people have died because of flu and/or pneumonia-related complications.
Flu symptoms could include the following: Fever or feeling of feverish/chills, dry cough, sore throat, fatigue, muscle or body aches, runny or stuffy nose, vomiting and diarrhea (more common in children), and fever.
How to avoid getting the flu: Get the influenza vaccine, wash hands frequently, avoid contact with those who are sick, avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth, clean and disinfect surfaces and objects that may be contaminated with germs.