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Influenza makes a big return

Make sure you cover your mouth when you sneeze and cough, as well as carrying portable hand sanitizer dispensers, because the flu is back, and it’s not leaving anytime soon.

Medical professionals and hospitals have started to see an increase in flu patients across the U.S. Respiratory and viral symptoms are emerging in young and old patients alike.

Unfortunately, some are so severe that hospital calls are the only remedy.

“In the last couple of weeks, it’s really picked up. I don’t know if we’ve hit our peak yet,” said University of Kansas Hospital Chief of Staff William Barkman, who heads the flu program.

Most people thought that the flu slowly faded away with the H1N1 epidemic in 2009, however that is not the case.

“I think some people thought we’d get by without much of a flu season because we didn’t see anything in January,” Barkman said. “But now it’s here.”

Barkman’s apprehensions lie with people who don’t think that the flu is a concern of priority and ignored receiving a flu shot for this season.

According to the Kansas City Star, a 40 percent increase can be seen in flu shot production compared to last year; this year the total number of doses of seasonal flu vaccines produced totaled 160 million.

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has suggested a universal influenza vaccination: every person six months old or older is encouraged to receive the flu shot.

This is the first time the CDC has suggested a universal way of dealing with the flu.

According to Tom Skinner, CDC spokesman, currently one third of the population has received the flu vaccination, which is about the same as previous years.

Skinner is not surprised by any of the flu ‘controversy.’

“We’re not seeing anything out of the ordinary,” Skinner said. “We’re at or close to that time when flu normally peaks. There’s a lot of flu out there and we’d expect activity to continue into March.”

For the week of Feb. 7, the CDC reported extensive flu activity in 37 states. Those include most of the East Coast, Midwest and Rocky Mountain regions. According to the CDC, hospitalization rates have been highest among those less than 5 years old and 65 years and older.

“Last year, we were seeing a lot more people,” staff pediatrician Lori Falcone said. “Parents were worried. There was heightened awareness. I think that’s carried through to some degree this year. Parents are more likely to bring their kids in or call for information.”

Pediatrician Christine White of Johnson County Pediatrics located in Merriam, Kan. also began noticing a large influx of flu patients in the past two weeks.

“Most people are bringing kids in because they have such high temperatures. They feel so hot and awful,” White said.

Some children who test positive for the flu had been vaccinated, but that is to be expected, according to White.

“No shot is 100 percent effective,” White said.

The current vaccine being used covers most of the strains of the flu that are circulating.

According to White, it is important to note that when children are vaccinated and contract the flu, it is often milder.

“The kids who had shots seem to have more energy. They don’t look quite so sad,” White said. “The ones who are really getting sick are the ones who didn’t have any protection at all.”

According to White, time hasn’t run out for you to get vaccinated for the flu.

Some pharmacy clinics still have the vaccine in stock, but you may also want to check with your primary care doctor.

“Sometimes flu season can go into April or May,” White said.

To learn more about Influenza, go to www.flu.gov.

khardaway@unews.com

 

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