Friday, October 24, 2014

County: Beware severe flu; still time for vaccine

By ABBY ECKEL, Herald Staff Writer | 1/2/2014

Does it seem like everyone is sick?

Kansans are experiencing influenza with more severity than people in other parts of the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The majority of influenza that has been sub-typed across the nation indicates pH1N1 as the predominant strain, Midge Ransom, Franklin County health department director, said. The strain is known to hit young children and young adults particularly hard.

Does it seem like everyone is sick?

Kansans are experiencing influenza with more severity than people in other parts of the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The majority of influenza that has been sub-typed across the nation indicates pH1N1 as the predominant strain, Midge Ransom, Franklin County health department director, said. The strain is known to hit young children and young adults particularly hard.

“I don’t have and can’t give specific numbers, but we have seen an increase in positive flu tests [in Franklin County],” she said. “Subjectively, from what I know, is that it appears some of the sickest people have not received [flu] vaccinations.”

Those who already have received the flu vaccine are protected from the H1N1 strain currently affecting residents, Ransom said. Those who haven’t received a flu shot yet should do so immediately, she added.

“Those who haven’t been vaccinated maybe don’t feel vulnerable and think ‘I’ve never gotten [the flu] so I’m not worried’ type thing,” she said. “Some people, for whatever reason, are afraid or say ‘I don’t believe in vaccines.’ The biggest thing I hear is that ‘I don’t get sick so I’m not going to get [the flu].’”

By getting the flu vaccine, it helps not only protect those who have received it, but everyone else as well, Ransom said. Because the flu is spread through droplets, person-to-person contact isn’t necessary for it to spread, she added.

“[The flu] is spread through droplets in the air so you want to stand back from people [who have the flu] and ask people to cover their cough,” she said. “There’s no question that frequent hand washing helps prevent the spread of disease. Wash hands frequently, don’t touch your face, rub your eyes, because that spreads those droplets and virus particles.”

Often times, people misinterpret symptoms as the flu when it could be the common cold, Ransom said. Symptoms of the flu are fever, dry cough, sore throat, body aches, headaches, fatigue and some people may have vomiting and diarrhea, though this is more common in children than adults, according to the CDC’s website.

“If they start to feel bad like the flu, see a medical provider where they might have them tested and there is treatment that can help,” she said. “Stay home from work so as not to spread to other people.”

The flu vaccine is recommended for everyone, she said, but those with underlying conditions such as those with weak immune systems should get the vaccine as life threatening complications can arise from getting the flu.

“The flu runs your body down and then you’re more susceptible to other complications,” she said. “They can be and are life-threatening.”

To schedule an appointment to get a flu vaccine, call the Franklin County health department at (785) 229-3530.

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