The Sedgwick County Department of Health is urging residents to get a flu shot if they haven’t already — because we’re not through the worst of the flu season.
By now, it’s well known just how bad the flu is this year: The virus is widespread in 48 out of 50 states, and in Kansas, the state health department has recorded 65 deaths so far caused directly by the flu, and 32 where the flu was a contributing factor.
And Sedgwick County health department director Adrienne Byrne says we haven’t peaked yet.
“So the season could go on for quite a while," she says.
Because of that, she says there’s still time to get a flu vaccine. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention hasn’t determined how effective this year’s vaccine is; some estimates put it at around 20 percent effective against Influenza A, the season’s most common strain.
“Even if it is not the best match, it still may provide some protection if someone does get the flu that it might not be quite as bad or last as long," Byrne says.
The Sedgwick County health department has free vaccines available for residents 19 and older without insurance — until supplies run out.
The severity of the flu varies from year to year. Byrne says this season has seen the most outpatient doctor's visits for flu-like infections since 2009, when the H1N1 virus was prevalent.
"The flu season is really hard to predict," she says, "because the viruses can change and mutate so much, and there can be new strains that we're not prepared for, that our bodies haven't developed any kind of immunity to."
Along with the vaccine, she says frequent hand-washing could also help prevent the spread of the flu.
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