Wash your hands! Flu, seasonal viruses hitting NE Kansas hard
The Centers for Disease Control now has 25 states -- including Kansas -- showing high flu activity.
And with so many people traveling over the Christmas holiday, it's bound to get worse before it gets better.
Topeka's Stormont Vail reports a big jump in cases of influenza-like illness at their hospitals and clinics. Testing has doubled since the week before Thanksgiving - from 171, to 387. The number of positive cases over that time has jumped more than 800 percent. There were just 12 the week before Thanksgiving, but there were 114 Christmas week.
"It's not just influenza, it's other seasonal respiratory viruses, too," said Dr. Clifton Jones, an infectious disease specialist at Stormont. "We probably haven't hit the top of the bubble."
Dr. Jones says Influenza B cases, which usually show up later and hit younger people more, are actually most prevalent right now.
"The flu season lasts at least through March or April we'll still see cases. Influenza A is likely to appear - in some parts of the country it's the predominant viral strain - and so we will probably see increased activity of that," he said.
Which means it's not too late to get your flu shot. Also, cover coughs and sneezes, stay home if you're sick, and wash hands and wipe down surfaces.
"The virus will not live indefinitely on doorknobs or cell phones or environmental surfaces, but it can live a few hours, so washing your hands before you rub your eyes or blow your nose, or cough into your hands can decrease your risk," Dr. Jones said.
Most of these illnesses are viruses, so you have to let them run their course, with rest, fluids and medications like acetaminophen to ease symptoms.
However, Dr. Jones said people with chronic conditions, such as heart disease, diabetes, COPD, or lung disease, should see a doctor if they become ill, and everyone should watch for complications.
"In the absence of fever, it's most likely a common cold and you don't need to be seen for that," Dr. Jones said. "If you develop a significant illness with shortness of breath, productive cough, pleurisy, or chest pain when you cough or take a deep breath, you really need to be seen urgently for possibility of pneumonia."
If you do opt to seek medical attention, Dr. Jones said it is best to first call a doctor's office, since they may not want you to come in and risk infecting others. If you do go to be seen without an appointment, he said it is best to go to an urgent care clinic, rather than the emergency room.
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