Severe flu season affects 46 states in U.S.

TOPEKA, Kan. (KSNT) — It seems gifts weren’t the only thing exchanged over the holiday season. Flu germs spread all over the country with widespread flu activity right here in Kansas and doctors are scrambling to treat the high number of patients.

Carrie Delfs, Clinical Services Division Manager of the Shawnee County Health Department, provided KSNT News a graph that shows the percent of outpatient visits for influenza-like illness. She said they count illness of a fever of 100 or greater and a cough and/or sore throat.

The CDC reports 46 states have widespread flu activity.

“It was over the weekend that we recognized that our volume was increasing,” said Michelle Gunnett, RN-Palomar Health, Escondido, Calif.

North of San Diego, emergency room doctors set up a special tent outside the hospital to handle a surge in flu patients.

The last time they needed an extended treatment area was during the 2009 flu pandemic.

“I’m concerned that this one may hit us hard,” said Dr. Christopher Ziebell of Dell Seton Medical Center in Austin, Texas.

So far there are 41,000 cases nationwide this season.

“Our transport numbers have never been higher,” said Doug Key of American Medical Response.

The flue can be deadly, especially for those with underlying health conditions. Those patients truly need emergency care.

But most people with the flu will recover without any complications.

“These patients could truly stay home and seek medical attention with their primary care physician instead of rushing to the emergency department,” said Steven Kim, MD – Riverside Community Hospital in Riverside, Calif.

The flu vaccine is not as effective this year, but experts say some protection is better than none.

“Even if you get sick having had the vaccine, your illness tends to be milder, not quite as severe,” said William Schaffner, MD – Vanderbilt University Medical Center.

The vaccine also lessens the chance of getting complications from the flu, like pneumonia.

People with the flu describe it as feeling like they’ve been hit by a truck: miserable body aches, fever, fatigue, etc.

Along with plenty of rest and fluids, your doctor’s office can prescribe an anti-viral to help you feel better, faster.

The Kansas Department of Health and Environment details its flu surveillance here.

Weekly flu information by the CDC can be found here.

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