TOPEKA — Kansas health officials on Tuesday urged flu vaccinations for all residents over 6 months of age, as surveillance programs showed influenza spreading throughout the state.
Kansas clinics in the surveillance program reported that more than 10 percent of their patients last week were being seen for flu-like symptoms. The Kansas Department of Health and Environment said there is “widespread” influenza activity throughout the state and reported that 333 Kansans died of flu or pneumonia between Sept. 1 and Dec. 20.
People at high risk of dying from the flu include those over 65, those who are immune-compromised and those who have underlying health conditions.
Most cases of this year’s flu have been caused by a strain that the vaccine does not protect against as well as others. But vaccination still can prevent flu or lessen its severity, so state and federal officials have continued promoting the flu shot and nasal mist, while also urging health care providers to dole out flu treatment drugs like Tamiflu and Relenza to high-risk patients as soon as they display symptoms rather than waiting for laboratory confirmation.
“Even though some circulating viruses may differ from the vaccine strain during the current season, influenza vaccination is still an important way to reduce the risk of serious complications and death,” said Charlie Hunt, the state epidemiologist. “If you have not had your flu vaccination for this season, I encourage you to get one now.”
According to KDHE, the influenza vaccination coverage rate was approximately 47 percent in Kansas last flu season, leaving more than half the population unprotected.
In addition to getting vaccinated, KDHE said Kansans can help prevent spread of the flu by covering coughs and sneezes, washing hands and staying home when sick.