Kansas Joins States Where the Flu is "Widespread"

By: Jason Tarr Email
By: Jason Tarr Email

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A fever, a sore throat and a cough.

Go ahead and add Kansas to the list of states where the flu is hitting hard.

The latest report from the Centers for Disease Control shows the flu is now considered "widespread" in 41 states. Kansas is one of 10 states the CDC added to that category this week.

Wichita's Olivia Robben, 14, started having flu-like symptoms Wednesday morning. Within just a few hours, she says it hit her like a ton of bricks.

"Headache, coughing, just felt really sleepy and not feeling like doing anything," Robben said.

That kind of story is nothing new to health professionals.

The CDC says the flu season is about five weeks ahead of average. It normally peaks at the end of January or early February but had already reached a severe level in the southern states by mid-November.

Researchers are looking into why the season got off to such an early start, including if last year's weather and humidity levels had anything to do with it.

In the meantime, health leaders say the flu season only continues to gain steam.

"It does feel like we have been busier in our office," Dr. Charlie Green of the Andover Via Christi Clinic said. "(We're) seeing more patients, patients have been a little sicker."

Dr. Green says that's happened just recently in our area.

"Right before Christmas break it really picked up where we really had quite a few cases of influenza in our office," Dr. Green said.

The dominant strain this year is H3N2 which the CDC says in the past has been associated with more severe illness in young children and the elderly.

The flu is described as a respiratory illness that features symptoms such as cough, shortness of breath, fever, sore throat and headaches. They say it is not to be confused with the what's casually called the "stomach flu." The stomach flu is not influenza and carries symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea.

If you do come down with symptoms of influenza, doctors say you should act fast.

"With influenza, there is a 48-hour window where if we get started on a medicine called Tamiflu, Tamiflu will reduce your symptoms," Dr. Green said. "They say that can mean up to half the time being sick."

In other words, don't be stubborn when it comes to going to the doctor's office.

"I think this is one instance when I think it is valuable to say, 'I better get in and get tested so I know what I've got,'" Dr. Green said.

But before you resign yourself to being stuck with the Kleenex box, health leaders say there's something you can, and you should, do to protect yourself.

"It's never too late to get the flu vaccine," Dr. Green said.

Doctors say the flu shot is your best line of defense.

They say more than three-quarters of the cases of the flu nationally involve people who did not receive a vaccination.

Doctors say it takes about two weeks for the vaccine to be active in your system. But if you get it now, you'll be ready for when the season likely peaks at the end of the month.


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