State records first flu death

The Kansas Department of Health and Environment has confirmed the state’s first influenza-related death of this flu season.

It happened in late October or early November in an individual between the age of 45 and 64.

A confirmed Influenza A case has also been reported in southwest Kansas. This year’s flu vaccine provides protection against this type of influenza. Influenza A is also treatable with medication.

Sporadic influenza activity has also been reported throughout the state. The Division of Health and Environmental Laboratories at KDHE tests viral specimens to identify specific strains, and notes any changes in the strains from the initial outbreak continuing throughout the influenza season.

Although we recommend that people receive their flu shot as early as possible in the season, it’s not too late to get the vaccine,” said Gail Hansen, KDHE deputy state epidemiologist.

Hansen said the flu vaccine is usually around 80 percent effective in preventing illness from influenza virus.

This means that it is possible to get influenza after having the vaccine, but even when illness occurs, symptoms are usually less severe and complications less frequent.

“It’s important to remember that the flu shot cannot cause the flu,” Hansen said. “Also, the vaccine wears off, so yearly vaccinations are recommended for those at high risk of complications. “

Certain individuals are at greater risk of complications from the flu:

n Individuals over 50 years of age.

n Children age 6 to 23 months.

n Individuals with chronic (on-going) long term health problems.

n Women who are at least three months pregnant during flu season.

KDHE recommends the following during flu season:

n Get a flu shot, even if not in a high risk group.

n Individuals in high-risk groups and those who have contact with those in the high-risk groups are especially encouraged to get a flu shot.

n Limit contact with large crowds of people.

n Wash your hands before and after coming in contact with people.

n Contact your medical provider first if you are experiencing cold or flu symptoms that you believe require medical attention.

Flu symptoms

If you begin to feel achy and feverish with a dry cough, get plenty of rest, drink plenty of liquids, and use aspirin or acetaminophen to reduce fever.

Due to the risk of Reye’s Syndrome, aspirin and other medicines containing salicylate should not be given to children.

New medications are available to reduce the severity and shorten the duration of influenza, but they must be administered within 48 hours of illness onset.

Influenza is a highly contagious respiratory illness, and its symptoms include sudden onset of fever, sore throat, muscle aches, and non-productive cough. More serious illness can result if pneumonia occurs.

Influenza is spread by direct contact with an infected person or by airborne droplets which produce infection when they are inhaled or ingested off the hands. Persons are most contagious during the 24 hours before they develop symptoms and are usually somewhat infectious for the next six or seven days.

The incubation period, the time from when the virus enters the body until symptoms appear, is usually one to three days.

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