January often is considered a peak month for seasonal influenza illness, and while national reports indicate continued widespread flu activity in most states — including Kansas — local officials say the situation in Hays has not been as severe.
A Hays Medical Center official confirmed last week local physicians are seeing increased flu activity, though most patients seeing their doctor for illness are testing negative for influenza. There also has not been a significant increase in the number of residents hospitalized for flu, said Kimberly Koerner, infection prevention officer at HaysMed.
“This may in part be due to the free influenza vaccines HaysMed has offered the community for the past 16 years, which is sponsored by the HaysMed Foundation,” Koerner said. “Associates at HaysMed are also provided with a free influenza vaccination on an annual basis.”
The hospital was recognized by the Immunization Action Coalition in 2016 for its vaccination practices.
Health officials are saying it is not too late to get a flu shot, as the seasonal illness sometimes can linger until late March.
HaysMed’s Convenient Care Walk-In Clinic also has seen increased traffic from patients presenting with flu-like symptoms, though the majority of them are not testing positive for influenza, Koerner said.
Confirmed local cases of influenza have been mostly strains of Influenza A, with just a few cases of Influenza B reported, she said.
This year’s flu vaccine is not an exact match for a prevalent strain of virus, with effectiveness estimated at approximately 30 percent, Koerner said, noting a vaccine still is encouraged as it could help prevent potential complications.
Other prevention measures include frequent hand washing with soap or an alcohol-based hand rub and avoiding contact with people who are sick. Koerner also said it’s helpful to sanitize frequently used household objects, such as cellphones, television remotes and door knobs.
“Most people who get influenza will recover within a few days up to two weeks without medical care or antiviral medications,” Koerner said. “If you are sick, it is important to stay at home unless you need to seek medical attention. Wash your hands frequently, drink plenty of fluids and get lots of rest.”
In rare cases, the flu can cause secondary complications such as bacterial infection. Patients should contact a doctor immediately if an illness seems to be getting worse instead of better or causes symptoms such as confusion, shortness of breath, fast heart rate, fever or extreme pain.