From the Kansas Department of Aging and Disability Services
TOPEKA—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 (KDHE) and the Kansas Department for Aging and Disability Services (KDADS) 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 (ILI), 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,” KDADS 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 (CDC), 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 under 50 hospitalizations per 100,000 people (week ending Dec. 29, 2012), to almost 98 hospitalizations per 100,000 people (week ending Jan. 19, 2013). 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), approximately 640 people have died because of flu and/or pneumonia-related complications.
Flu symptoms include the following:
· Fever or feeling of feverish/chills
· Dry cough
· Sore throat
· Muscle or body aches
· Runny or stuffy nose
· Some people may have vomiting and diarrhea (more common in children)
*not everyone with the flu will have a 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
How to avoid spreading the flu:
· Avoid contact with others if you are sick (stay home for at least 24 hours after your fever is gone except to get medical care or for other necessities)
· Cover coughs and sneezes
· Wash hands frequently
We’re aware that some health care providers are reporting that they’ve run out of the influenza vaccine. According to the CDC, the flu vaccine is produced by private manufacturers, so availability depends on when production is completed. In May and September, 2012, influenza vaccine manufacturers originally projected about 135 million doses would be available for the U.S. market during the 2012-2013 season. Recent updates from manufacturers to the CDC indicate that more doses of flu vaccine were actually produced, totaling 145 million doses. As of Jan. 18, 2013, more than 133 million doses had been distributed. During 2011-2012, 132.8 million doses of flu vaccine were distributed in the U.S.
At this time, some vaccine providers may have exhausted their vaccine supplies, while others may have remaining supplies of vaccine. People seeking the flu shot may need to call more than one provider to locate it. For a list of providers still reporting supplies in your area, visit http://flushot.healthmap.org/
For more information on staying healthy during the flu season, visit the KDHE Seasonal Influenza webpage at www.kdheks.gov/flu/index.html.