The 2017-18 flu season is well underway, and the Barton County Health Department has been on the front lines battling the potentially dangerous respiratory disease.
Thus far, the department has offered over 40 flu shot outreach clinics this year. “A great number of community members have taken advantage of extended hours and extended offerings, increasing the blanket of protection against Influenza this season,” Health Director Shelly Schneider said.
“I’ve heard it’s going to a rough year but I don’t know,” she said. Flu shots are still available at the BCHD, and she encourages county residents to get their vaccinations.
“We haven’t had a bad flu year for a while,” Schneider said. But, the number of flu-related health-care visits is on the rise.
“Christmas will tell us,” she said.
With families coming together for the holidays, the virus can spread and cause a spike in the number of cases.There are about 27,000 residents in Barton County and during the past flu season, the Health Department administered 3,000 flu shots. This doesn’t included vaccines given by other providers who don’t report their totals, making the flu immunization rate tough to track. By the first week of December, staff had administered 1,830 vaccinations for the 2017-2018 influenza season.
The flu season
Flu viruses are most common during the fall and winter months and seem to peak in February. In fact, they may start as early as October and, in some cases, continue through May. “The Influenza vaccine has protection that will last approximately nine months, so it is not too early to receive your protection,” Schneider said.
Depending on the severity of the influenza season, 5 to 20 percent of the population may get influenza each year, Schneider said. During the peak of the 2016-2017 influenza season in Kansas, approximately 10 percent of all health care visits in clinics were due to influenza-like illness. This number is continuing to climb every year.
Who should get vaccinated?
The CDC recommends everyone age 6 months and older should get a flu vaccine every season. Some flu viruses are severe enough to require hospitalization. Flu viruses can also be life threatening if patients have other chronic illnesses.
Additional ways to avoid spreading influenza include covering your mouth when you cough and sneeze, washing your hands and staying home when you are sick.
For more information on the vaccine or for other questions, call the Health Department, 620-793-1902.