For Immediate Release
November 16, 2009

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

Influenza Activity Remains High in Kansas

The Kansas Department of Health and Environment (KDHE) has released its most recent weekly report on the impact of influenza-like illness in Kansas.  As the 2009 H1N1 influenza A virus continues to circulate in Kansas and throughout the U.S., flu activity in the state remains very high.

“Usually at this time of year, about 2 percent of patients seeking care in outpatient clinics around Kansas would be reported as having influenza-like illness,” said Charlie Hunt, State Epidemiologist with the Kansas Department of Health and Environment (KDHE). “Although we have seen a small decline over the past two weeks, 5.6 percent of these patients were reported as presenting with flu-like symptoms during the past week, which is still more than twice the normal level of flu activity and is unprecedented at this time of year.”

KDHE performs some monitoring for flu viruses year-round.  This allows the department to establish a baseline of what is considered a “normal” level of flu activity.

The KDHE’s Epidemiology and Surveillance Weekly Status Report is available at http://www.kdheks.gov/H1N1/H1N1_Epi_Reports.htm and provides information on flu-related deaths, as well as information on hospital admissions, school absenteeism, and more.

“During the first week of November across the state, 16 percent of high schools, 15 percent of middle schools and 11 percent of elementary schools reported to their local health departments that they are experiencing absenteeism rates that are 10 percent or higher,” said Hunt. “Schools in Kansas normally report a 5 percent absenteeism rate.”

KDHE has worked with state education officials to provide guidance to schools on how to reduce the spread of pandemic H1N1 and other flu viruses in those settings.

The symptoms of infection with the pandemic H1N1 virus are similar to the symptoms of seasonal flu and include fever of 100 degrees or greater, body aches, coughing, sore throat, respiratory congestion, and in some cases, diarrhea and vomiting.  Most people who have been ill with pandemic H1N1 influenza have recovered without medical treatment.

However, some people develop serious complications that require hospitalization or may lead to death.  Although serious complications are more likely among persons with certain underlying chronic health conditions, this pandemic influenza virus has caused serious complications and deaths among persons without such factors.  Unlike typical seasonal influenza, the 2009 H1N1 virus is causing a greater disease burden among adolescents and young adults.  Severe illness from H1N1 virus infection can even occur among relatively young, healthy persons.

KDHE is no longer accepting specimens from everyone who sees a doctor with symptoms.  In non-hospitalized cases, confirmatory testing does not affect treatment and advice given to patients by health care providers. 

Most children and adults with the flu who are generally in good health will recover without needing to visit a health care provider.  Some people may want to call their health care provider for advice on how to care for the flu at home.

Individuals who experience severe illness or who are at high risk of complications from H1N1 influenza infection, including children less than 5 years of age, adults 65 years of age and older, pregnant women, and persons with chronic medical conditions (including asthma, diabetes, heart disease, and other conditions), should contact their health care provider.

The pandemic H1N1 vaccine has started to arrive in Kansas, but at this time in very limited quantities. Certain individuals are recommended to receive the vaccine earlier.  For more information on vaccine prioritization, please visit www.kdheks.gov/H1N1/H1N1_Vaccine.htm.

Up-to-date information on H1N1 vaccination clinics being held across the state can be found by going to www.kdheks.gov and clicking on “Where can I receive the H1N1vaccine?”
Until people are able to be vaccinated against the virus, individuals are encouraged to take the following steps to reduce its 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.