It's here! Kansas elevated to 'widespread' flu activity status

TOPEKA, Kan. (WIBW) - If you think you beat the bug this season -- it's just getting started.

The Kansas Dept. of Health and Environment updated its influenza surveillance report Thursday to show Kansas experiencing widespread activity. The CDC's current map shows Kansas with regional activity, bu their map is a week behind.

Health officials expected the increase, as the holiday season brought people together with family and friends -- and their germs!

"There were more states right before Christmas that had a higher flu activity, and so that made us know, once Christmas was over, our activity was going to go up as well with all the traveling," said Dr. Korri Phillips of Cotton O'Neil Express Care.

In addition to more influenza cases, Dr. Phillips says the area is seeing more cold and respiratory viruses, plus a para influenza virus is making the rounds - with people suffering body aches, fevers and respiratory symptoms.

Phillips says now is the time to practice all those good habits.

"Wash your hands well if you have access to soap and water; use the hand sanitizer when you don't have access to it; making sure that you're coughing into your elbow, not into your hands where you're touching things; staying away from crowds whenever you can," she suggested.

Plus, it's not too late to get your flu shot. So far, it appears to be matching well to the flu strains going around.

"Just because we're starting with the season doesn't mean we're over with the season - the season's typically over in March," Phillips said. "Even if it doesn't prevent you from getting influenza, it prevents some of those secondary issues, or you may not get as hard of a case of flu."

If you do get sick, stay home until you're fever-free for 24 hours. A trip to the doctor usually isn't necessary unless you're high risk - for example, the very young or very old, or people with a chronic condition like emphysema or asthma - or if you experience behavioral changes, or have trouble breathing.

"For the rest of us, we need to stay home, drink lots of fluids, work on relieving those symptoms, and just staying away from other people to prevent the spread of it," Phillips said.

The nasal vaccine is back as an option this year, however, Phillips says it's still not certain it's as effective as the shot.

All Cotton O'Neil Express Care locations have walk-in flu shots available during regular hours. You can find a list of those here.