Influenza is widespread locally, nationally
The influenza season is striking earlier and harder than it has the previous two years. Nationally, the Centers for Disease Control is reporting widespread influenza in 49 of 50 states.
Dr. Christian Tramp, physician at Sabetha Family Practice and Sabetha Community Hospital, said it appears to him that the Sabetha community is aligned with this national report.
“Despite last year’s national report of widespread, it was mild for us locally,” Dr. Tramp said. “This season is certainly worse in regard to the number of cases.”
Nemaha County Community Health Services Administrator Jane Sunderland RN, BSN, agrees, saying that influenza cases are increasing in northeast Kansas, as much of the country is experiencing “widespread and intense flu activity.”
The Kansas Department of Health and Environment is reporting this year’s “Influenza Like Illness” to be spiking much earlier than it did during the 2016-17 influenza season. Activity spiked sharply in late December and early January.
KDHE defines ILI activity as a fever higher than 100 degrees and the presence of a cough and/or sore throat. The main strain circulating appears to be A/H3N2, according to site reporting to monitor which strains of influenza are circulating in the state.
“These viruses [H3 strains] are often linked to more severe illness, especially among children and people age 65 and older,” Sunderland said. “When H3 viruses are predominant, we tend to have a worse flu season with more hospitalizations and more deaths.”
Other strains circulating, though much less prevalent, include A/H1, B/Yamagata.
Flu symptoms, which Sunderland noted often start suddenly rather than gradually, include fever, cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, muscle or body aches, headache, chills and fatigue. Some people also may have vomiting and diarrhea. People may be infected with the flu, and have respiratory symptoms without a fever. Complications can include pneumonia, ear and sinus infections and dehydration. Influenza may also worsen other chronic conditions.
Tramp said the protocol for contacting a doctor differs for each person, but he said the nurses and doctors are happy to discuss symptoms and whether an exam is needed with patients. Anyone with a fever for more than 24 to 48 hours — especially with considerations due to age, severity of other symptoms, or other medical problems — should contact a healthcare professional.
According to KDHE, common practices people should take to avoid getting or spreading influenza include covering your mouth when you cough and sneeze, washing your hands and staying home when you are sick.
“These actions can reduce the spread of respiratory illnesses like influenza in our community,” Sunderland said.
The influenza vaccine is also strongly recommended for nearly all persons six months of age or older. Infants less than six months of age are too young to be vaccinated and are more vulnerable to the complications from influenza.
Being vaccinated against influenza is especially important for anyone at high risk of complications and for anyone who is caring for children younger than 5 years of age. It is also important for persons caring for those with medical conditions that put them at higher risk for severe complications.
“While influenza vaccines are not perfect, vaccination is the main tool to prevent influenza infection and CDC recommends that vaccination efforts continue as long as influenza viruses are circulating,” Sunderland said. “It takes about two weeks for protection from vaccination to set in, but we have a lot of flu season to still get through.”
Sunderland said that multiple influenza viruses circulate, and different strains might circulate later in the season.
“Most flu vaccines protect against all four of those circulating viruses,” Sunderland said. “The B viruses tend to show up later in the season so getting the vaccine will help cover them as well.”
Amber Deters113 Posts
Amber Deters is Co-Editor of The Sabetha Herald, where she has been on staff since 2005. She specializes in school board, election and legislative reporting, as well as photography and page and advertising design. Amber is a 2005 Kansas State University graduate with a degree in journalism and mass communications, print journalism sequence. She lives in Sabetha with her husband and three children.