by Mary Rupert
Local health authorities are seeing a big spike in flu cases in the past week, according to Larry Franken, chief epidemiologist at the Wyandotte County Health Department.
Franken said on Monday afternoon that there have been more than 40 cases of health-care reported flu in Wyandotte County. That includes reports from the hospitals and clinics here, along with other hospitals where Wyandotte County residents have gone, he added.
A lot of flu-like illnesses aren’t reported and the patients are just sent home, Franken said. These 40 cases are the ones that actually are tested.
“We’re starting to see the flu season hitting,” he said.
He said he was also starting to see an increase in the number of fevers at Wyandotte County schools in the last week. Schools don’t test for the flu, and fevers are used as a good indicator of the flu, he said.
Franken, who holds a doctorate degree, said that now is a good time to get a flu shot if you haven’t received one yet. The flu shot takes a couple of weeks to take effect, and getting a flu shot now will give residents a few weeks before they are at holiday gatherings or traveling to other places.
There was some concern expressed last week that the flu vaccine this year doesn’t match up perfectly with the strains of the flu. But there probably will be different strains of the flu that persons are exposed to during the flu season.
“It’s still better to get the flu shot,” Franken said. “Even if it’s not a perfect match, you still will get some protection, it’s more likely to lessen the effects. You still want to get the vaccine.”
For people who have severe cases of flu, doctors can prescribe Tamiflu within the first 48 hours to lessen its effects.
The best advice for residents is to get a flu vaccine, stay home when you’re sick, continue good hand-washing practices and cover that cough, he said.