With flu activity increasing and family and friends gathering for the holidays, the Kansas Department of Health and Environment (KDHE) urges all Kansans to receive an annual flu vaccination to protect themselves and their loved ones.
National Influenza Vaccination Week, Dec. 7-13, serves as a reminder that all of us have a responsibility to prevent the spread of influenza, or the “flu.” In the U.S., flu activity usually begins in October. Kansas has identified two different types of influenza viruses currently circulating, and, based on data from the Outpatient Influenza-like Illness Surveillance Network (ILINet), flu activity is currently minimal within the state. However, flu activity usually increases at this time of year, peaks in January or February, and can last as late as May.
On average, five to 20 percent of the U.S. population contracts the flu yearly, and more than 200,000 people are hospitalized with complications of flu. During the peak of the 2013-2014 influenza season in Kansas, approximately six percent of all health care visits in ILINet clinics were due to influenza-like illness. Influenza or pneumonia contributed to or was the direct cause of 1,135 deaths among Kansas residents during the 2013-2014 influenza season. Influenza and pneumonia was the seventh leading cause of death in 2013 in Kansas.
“Getting a flu vaccination is still the best way to protect yourself and those who are at high risk,” said Susan Mosier, M.D., KDHE Secretary and State Health Officer. “Flu season is here and before it becomes widespread, take the opportunity to get your vaccine now.”
In addition to getting vaccinated, avoid spreading the flu virus by:
Staying home when you are sick
Covering coughs and sneezes
Washing your hands
Nearly everyone six months and older is recommended to receive a flu vaccine every year. Vaccination is especially important for protecting those at high risk for serious complications, including young children, pregnant women, adults 65 years and older, and anyone with chronic health conditions like asthma, heart disease, and diabetes. Those caring for, or in regular contact with, an infant less than six months of age should also be immunized. At this age, babies are too young to be vaccinated and are more vulnerable to complications from influenza.
Getting a flu vaccination:
Can keep you from getting sick with the flu
Helps protect people around you who are at risk from the flu and its serious complications
May make your illness milder even if you do get sick
If you are at high risk for serious complications of flu and develop symptoms, contact your health care provider immediately. Treatment with prescription antiviral medication can shorten the illness and reduce the risk of complications. Symptoms of the flu include: fever, headache, extreme tiredness, dry cough and muscle aches. Complications can include pneumonia, ear and sinus infections and dehydration; the flu might also worsen other chronic conditions.
It’s not too late to vaccinate. To get your flu vaccine, please contact your health care provider or the local health department. Visit www.kdheks.gov/flu for more flu facts.