Flu still dangerous as season winds down

Published On: Feb 21 2014 05:28:16 PM CST   Updated On: Feb 21 2014 06:47:31 PM CST

We need to be as careful as ever as the flu season winds down. Those who study flu trends say this has been a statistically normal season but it's definitely had some twists.

"It's a microbe that mutates and it's very difficult often to predict exactly what's going to happen," said Joann Paul, who tracks infections for Wesley Medical Center and Galichia Heart Hospitals in Wichita.

Although there are fewer cases being reported every day, she says the flu is still a threat to you.

"You can still catch flu and we still see cases into April," said Paul.

The flu may be on its way out but it's not gone. Which is normal.

What's not normal? Who caught the flu and the number of deaths it's caused this year.

"This year we're finding that it is hitting particularly young adults and middle aged adults," said Paul. "And young people respond differently to the challenge of influenza than others."

That may be why the number of flu deaths is down this year. Many of those who get sick aren't coming to the hospital with the flu, but with a secondary infection they've caught while getting better.

"So by the time they get here they don't have the flu, they're not testing positive for the flu, but they do have pneumonia," said Paul.

That rush of flu-related illnesses that overcrowded Wichita hospitals last month she says was mostly other respiratory infections.

But it led to a push for more flu shots which may have helped end the flu season earlier.
It's still not too late to get a flu shot. The experts say, while about half of those who catch the flu will never even know they've had it, a flu shot can keep them from spreading it to others.

"It takes about 10 days to gain immunity, but that is still effective for the straggler flu that we do see," said Paul. "Flu is a killer. We all need to be immunized and we all need to use very, very rigorous hand hygiene."

Which means we still need to remember to do things like cough into a tissue, or our elbows, and wash our hands often, especially after touching something like that lots of other people touch. When washing, don't forget to get down between the fingers and other tight places where those germs like to hide.

According to the "Centers for Disease Control and Prevention" the number of people with the flu in Kansas right now is in the low range. All the states around us are in the low to minimal range for flu infections.

Flu season officially lasts from September to May.