Hays Medical Center is reporting less cases of influenza than the majority of the U.S.

On average, 5 percent to 20 percent of the population is diagnosed with the flu, according to the Kansas Department of Health and Environment. Based on a report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, during the week of Jan. 19 to 25, more than 9,000 people were tested for influenza, and 21 percent were positive. As of Jan. 31, HaysMed has admitted less than 1 percent of those tested for influenza.

Influenza is a contagious respiratory illness caused by a virus. It often infects the nose, throat and lungs. In rare cases, it can lead to death.

Bevra Brinkman, infection prevention officer at HaysMed, monitors infections or possibilities of infections with associates and patients.

"We feel we have less cases because we have been immunizing the community for 14 years," Brinkman said. "We offer a free flu vaccine drive once a year."

Sponsored by the HaysMed Foundation, the drive usually takes place for four hours each October.

"The drive has increased the immunity to influenza in our community," Brinkman said. "We also require mandatory influenza vaccines for anyone who works in our facility or cares for our patients."

In October, HaysMed gave away more than 3,000 vaccines.

Brinkman said they have found people who are positive with influenza did not get the vaccine.

"Bringing it to the community every year has really kept influenza away from our facility," she said.

The drive is advertised as soon as the date is set.

"We have people start calling about it in August," Brinkman said. "It's a great opportunity for the community to keep people healthy."

If a person does test positive for influenza, they are prescribed anti-viral medicine throughout a five day period. Most people are prescribed the medication and go home.

"A lot of times with the elderly population, it could be detrimental or cause death," Brinkman said. "Those cases are very few. Those with high-risk are usually the ones admitted."

Due to the low number of influenza cases, HaysMed has not needed to put any visitor restrictions in place.

"Usually we have to restrict children 12 and under," Brinkman said. "They can be carriers, and we want to protect who we're taking care of since patient care is very important to us. But we haven't needed to because of the small number of cases."

Flu season officially ends in March, and Brinkman believes the peak is finished.

"The peak is January," she said. "I'm just happy we are able to help the community out. Offering free vaccines is extraordinary."