For Immediate Release
September 2, 2009

KDHE Office of Communications
communications@kdheks.gov, 785-296-0461

Update on the 2009 H1N1 Influenza A virus in Kansas

Board of Regents, KDHE Issue Statement on H1N1
KDHE transitions to new testing procedures

Spread of the H1N1 flu virus can be effectively controlled on college campuses, reducing the risk of serious illness for students and staff, the Kansas Board of Regents and the Kansas Department of Health and Environment (KDHE) said in a joint statement issued today.

“Public colleges and universities have been working hard to stay ahead of the curve in their efforts to reduce the risks of H1N1 spread on their campuses,” said Reginald L. Robinson, President and CEO of the Kansas Board of Regents. “Sending ill students home or otherwise distancing them from others are effective ways to reduce the spread.  It is critically important for us to communicate constantly and consistently about these issues if we are to effectively combat the spread of rumor and misunderstanding about the risks to student health.”

Higher education institutions in the state are following recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and KDHE.

“Colleges and universities are doing the best things that they can do to help keep students and faculty healthy,” said Dr. Jason Eberhart-Phillips, State Health Officer and Director of the Division of Health at KDHE. “We truly hope that people are heartened by this knowledge, not discouraged or frightened.  Public health and education professionals are working in partnership to protect student health when it comes to H1N1.”

In other news, KDHE has transitioned to new testing procedures for the H1N1 virus and is no longer accepting specimens from everyone who sees a doctor with symptoms.

KDHE will continue collecting specimens from hospitalized patients, as well as a limited number of specimens from a network of clinics and hospitals across the state that are submitting weekly information on the number of patients they are seeing with flu-like symptoms.  Those sites will also submit a random sample of specimens from patients, for testing that will allow KDHE to monitor the spread of disease in the state.

Testing these random samples alone will stretch the state’s lab capacity to the limit this fall and winter, Dr, Eberhart-Phillips said.

“In non-hospitalized cases, any confirmatory testing we do would not affect the treatment and advice given to patients by health care providers,” he added.

Unreported cases of H1N1 are occurring across Kansas and throughout the U.S.  Although the presence of H1N1 has been confirmed in certain geographic areas through analysis by the state laboratory, this should not be taken to mean that the virus is not present elsewhere. 

“H1N1 was declared a pandemic virus by the World Health Organization earlier this year,” stated Dr. Eberhart-Phillips.  “This means we can expect to find H1N1 in virtually every part of Kansas.  Testing everyone with flu-like symptoms for H1N1 is no longer needed.  What is needed is for people who are experiencing flu-like symptoms to stay home, rest and drink plenty of fluids so that they can recover without spreading the virus to others.”

The symptoms of infection with the pandemic H1N1 virus are similar to the symptoms of seasonal flu and include fever greater than 100 degrees, body aches, coughing, sore throat, respiratory congestion, and in some cases, diarrhea and vomiting.
 
There is no vaccine available yet to protect against the pandemic H1N1 virus, but there are treatments that can shorten the course of illness in severe cases, once the infection is diagnosed.

As with any influenza virus, individuals are encouraged to take the following steps to reduce spread:

KDHE has established a phone number for concerned Kansans to call with questions about the 2009 H1N1 influenza A virus.  The toll-free number is 1-877-427-7317.  Operators will be available to answer questions from 8 a.m. – 5 p.m. Monday through Friday.  Persons calling will be directed to press “1” on their touch-tone phone to be directed to an operator who can answer questions.
Kansans with questions about the virus can email H1N1fluinfo@kdheks.gov.  Information is also available from KDHE at www.kdheks.gov.