For Immediate Release
Febuary 19, 2008

KDHE Office of Communications, 785-296-0461

Update on Flu Activity

KDHE Emphasizes Taking Precautions Against Flu Virus

As flu activity remains widespread within the state, the Kansas Department of Health and Environment (KDHE) is reminding Kansans to take precautions against spreading flu viruses and to receive a vaccination against the flu if they have not already done so.

Those precautions include proper handwashing, covering coughs and sneezes and staying home when sick. Cover the mouth and nose with a tissue when coughing or sneezing. If a tissue is not available, cough or sneeze into your upper sleeve, not your hands. Additionally, although this season’s flu vaccine does not match all of the circulating viral strains, the vaccine still offers a degree of protection and the vaccine remains available.

“Even in cases where the vaccine does not match the strain, it can often lessen the severity of the symptoms as well as the likelihood of complications,” stated Dr. Gail Hansen, State Epidemiologist. “It’s also important to remember that Kansas typically experiences peak influenza activity around this time of year, and we expect to see high activity for a few more weeks.”

The department first reported ‘widespread’ activity to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) effective January 26. At that time, ten other states were also reporting widespread activity. As of the week ending February 9, all but six states are reporting widespread activity and five those are reporting ‘regional’ activity, the next-highest flu activity level.

The CDC definition of ‘widespread’ flu activity is “outbreaks of influenza or increases in influenza-like illness cases and recent laboratory-confirmed influenza in at least half the regions of the state.” Additional information can be found at

Hansen emphasized that with few exceptions almost everyone should get vaccinated against the flu, especially those in the following groups:

People who should not be vaccinated against the flu include:

“The flu shot is made with dead influenza virus and cannot cause the flu,” Hansen said. “The nasal flu vaccine is made with a live weakened virus, which is why it is recommended only for healthy persons 2 to 49 years of age who are not pregnant.”

Influenza is a highly contagious respiratory illness, and its symptoms include sudden onset of fever, sore throat, muscle aches and non-productive cough. More serious illness can result if pneumonia occurs. Influenza is spread by direct contact with an infected person or by airborne droplets that produce infection when they are inhaled or ingested off the hands. Persons are most contagious during the 24 hours before they develop symptoms and are usually somewhat infectious for the next six or seven days. The incubation period, the time from when the virus enters the body until symptoms appear, is usually one to three days.

Note to editors and reporters: Dr. Gail Hansen, State Epidemiologist, and Dick Morrissey, Interim Director of Health, will be available for interviews throughout the day on Wednesday, February 20. Please contact Joe Blubaugh or Mike Heideman to schedule an interview.