The flu is a serious problem this season.
At its peak in early February, about 7 percent of all visits to health clinics in Sedgwick County were for flu-like symptoms. Now, the rate is at 3 percent.
Dr. George Dehner of Wichita State University, an expert on the history of the influenza virus, said the flu rate is on the upper end of a normal year.
“It’s not a pandemic," he said. "It rose to a very quick peak, caused a lot of cases and caused a lot of misery.”
DON’T BLAME AN UPSET STOMACH ON THE FLU
There are misconceptions about the flu. Dehner says there is a problem of misidentification. For example, stomach flu is not the flu; it is not caused by the influenza virus and “beer flu” is just a hangover.
The flu vaccine must be updated at least yearly because of what researchers call viral drift.
“For production purposes, a decision is made in March for a flu vaccine that will be released in September,” said Dehner. “There is a lot of educated guessing.”
WHY EVERYONE SHOULD GET A FLU SHOT
The very young and the very old are most susceptible to high flu mortality. In a normal flu season, healthy adults respond well to treatment but Dehner said everyone should get a flu shot.
“The shot not only offers protection from getting the flu but offers protection for friends and neighbors, as well,” he said.
Dehner said a flu pandemic is possible and cites the 1918 Spanish Flu as an example, but points out that today we have antibiotics to protect people from symptoms like pneumonia.
The Sedgwick County Health Department has flu prevention tips and a guide to find a flu shot provider.