The first cases of influenza for the 2013-14 season surfaced in Kansas, with one in Sedgwick County.
So far, the disease — which is different that what most people call the "Flu" — has not surfaced in Harvey County.
"Influenza is respiratory," said Skip Cowan of the Harvey County Health Department. "When people are throwing up, it is really just a stomach bug. … That is a big difference. People diagnose themselves with the flu, but there is a big difference there."
According to webmd.com, "Stomach flu" is a popular term but not a true medical diagnosis. It's not uncommon to mistake gastroenteritis, which is what stomach flu is, for the viral infection commonly called the "flu." Gastroenteritis refers to inflammation of the gastrointestinal tract (stomach and intestines). Viruses are the most common cause of stomach flu. With gastroenteritis, patients may have symptoms such as abdominal cramps, nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea.
Influenza, commonly shortened to the "flu," is an extremely contagious respiratory illness caused by influenza A or B viruses. Flu appears most frequently in winter and early spring. The flu virus attacks the body by spreading through the upper and/or lower respiratory tract. Symptoms of influenza include fever, dry cough, extreme tiredness and muscle aches. Complications can include pneumonia, ear and sinus infections, and dehydration; influenza may also worsen other chronic conditions.
The Kansas Department of Health and Environment is reporting the first confirmed influenza cases of the 2013-2014 season. Both cases were among adults in the Wichita area. One case was identified through local surveillance activities by the Sedgwick County Health Department and the other case was identified through ILINet, a system of clinics that KDHE uses to monitor outpatients who exhibit influenza-like illness.
Health officials are reminding Kansans that it’s not too late to get vaccinated against influenza. Influenza vaccine is recommended for nearly everyone six months of age and older. Infants less than six months of age are too young to be vaccinated and are more vulnerable to the complications from influenza.
"We will give them until we run out … which will be well into next year when the next vaccine comes out," Cowan said.
The Health Department gives flu vaccine at its office at 316 N. Oak, Newton. No appointment is needed. Cost of the shot is $30. The department will also host a clinic Nov. 14 at Grace Community Church. For more information call 283-1637 or toll free 800-414-4244
According to KDHE, being vaccinated against influenza is especially important for anyone at high risk of complications and for anyone who is caring for children younger than five years of age. It is also important for persons caring for those with medical conditions that put them at higher risk for severe complications.
“The arrival of our first confirmed influenza cases of the season serves as an important reminder for everyone to get vaccinated to protect themselves, their loved ones and the community,” said Robert Moser, M.D., KDHE Secretary and State Health Officer. “Influenza normally increases during the holidays before peaking around February.”
Depending on the severity of the influenza season, five percent to 20 percent of the population may get influenza each year. During the peak of the 2012-2013 influenza season in Kansas, approximately six percent of all health care visits in ILINet clinics were due to influenza-like illness. Influenza or pneumonia contributed to or was the direct cause of 1,444 deaths among Kansas residents during the 2012-2013 influenza season. Influenza and pneumonia was the eighth leading cause of death in 2012 in Kansas.
Additional ways to avoid spreading influenza include covering coughs and sneezes, washing hands and staying home when sick.