With widespread activity of influenza in Kansas, State Health Officer Robert Moser said it is not too late to vaccinate against the flu, and he encourages employers to take the necessary steps for a healthy workplace.
“I would ask that business owners and managers encourage their employees to stay at home when ill to avoid the spread of influenza in the community.
“It’s also important for everyone to wash their hands throughout the day with warm, soapy water and to sanitize telephones, keyboards and other office equipment used often,” Moser said.
One of several ways KDHE tracks influenza is by monitoring the percentage of patients seeking health care in selected outpatient clinics who exhibit influenza-like illness, in a system known as ILINet.
“The typical peak for cases of ILI in Kansas occurs in February, and the rates we are observing now are higher and earlier than what we usually see,” said Moser.
Last week the rate of ILI among patients seeking care at ILINet sites was about 6.4 percent. During the 2011-12 influenza season, this rate peaked at 3.4 percent the week ending March 10, the latest peak of an influenza season in Kansas since surveillance began in 1995.
KDHE also closely monitors influenza-related deaths.
During the 2011-2012 influenza season, influenza and pneumonia, a common complication of influenza, contributed to or directly caused more than 1,300 deaths among Kansas residents, and was the eighth leading underlying cause of death in 2011.
In the current influenza season, more than 460 influenza and pneumonia deaths have been reported to date.
Influenza vaccine is recommended for nearly everyone six months of age and older to reduce the risk of becoming ill with the flu and reduce the risk of spreading the flu to others, Moser said.
This is especially important for anyone at high risk of complications, and for anyone who is caring for, or in regular contact with, an infant less than six months of age.
“Babies this age are too young to be vaccinated and are more vulnerable to the complications from influenza,” he said.
Symptoms of influenza include fever, dry cough, extreme tiredness and muscle aches. Complications can include pneumonia, ear and sinus infections, and dehydration; influenza may also worsen other chronic conditions.
“Let’s not forget that influenza is unpredictable and can continue to circulate through spring,” said Moser.
For information on receiving the influenza vaccine, contact your health care provider or go to: www.kdheks.gov/flu for influenza facts.