It’s flu season in Cowley County. Nobody reading this is surprised by that statement. But what may surprise is that so far, the season hasn’t been too bad, though it may be picking up.

“It’s terrible when you’re the one who has” the flu said county health department director Tom Langer. “But it’s not as widespread as we’ve seen.” The benchmark year for flu statistics is 2017-18, Langer said, when an estimated one-third of the county experienced the illness.

Langer said numbers of people receiving flu shots have been “going up and up” every year for years, and that has cut down on flu cases. 

While some years the flu vaccine does not hit the viruses that actually develop, this year, the vaccine for the B strain is “very good,” he said, another reason for fewer cases.

Schools in recess for the holidays also meant no large groups of people together to share the diseases, so there was no spike in the absentee rate. 

Of course, school is back in session, he said. And the flu is a kind of “family disease” — one person in the family gets it and everyone else comes down with it.

One proof that flu cases may be on the rise is that Sunshine Day Care in Winfield canceled classes Friday. They sent several children home because of illnesses, and so many staff members were out sick, the center did not have the required ratio of staff to children, according to a text message sent out to parents and caregivers Thursday afternoon.

Both William Newton Hospital and South Central Kansas Medical Center have instituted standard operating procedures for instances of increased flu activity. 

These include keeping children under 12 away from hospital patients, including family members. No one is allowed in patient care areas without prior authorization and protective gear, including masks, disposable gloves and hand sanitizer, made available by the hospitals.

Trevor Langer, marketing director at SCKMC, said that since Dec. 13 the hospital has had a total of 34 patients test positive for flu, 28 for influenza B and eight for influenza A. Out of the 34, eight were positive for both A and B. 

Sarah Bryant, William Newton marketing director, said they have not seen an increase in admissions since the holidays, but the emergency room has been busier because more people are coming in with the flu.

In addition to the flu, a variety of viruses have made life difficult for folks since at least Thanksgiving, Langer said. 

“There was a really nasty lower GI infection that had people down for a week or two. And we’re still seeing occurrences of an upper respiratory infection that has been hanging on for two or three weeks.” 

Langer’s recommendations are standard for viruses:

If you get the flu and can do it, stay home from work; keep your sick kids out of school and everyone out of group activities. 

Wash your hands frequently. Get a lot of rest. Drink a lot of fluids to prevent dehydration. Use tissues when you sneeze or the crook of you elbow if you can’t get to a tissue quickly enough. Dispose of the tissues properly. Watch out for fever.

Flu shots are still available. It takes about two weeks for resistance to flu to build up. See the Cowley County Health Department website for more information.

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