Dr. Paul Loney almost made it through the flu season without catching the bug, but when his throat started hurting last week, he realized it was an occupational hazard.
"I finally got nailed with it," said Loney, an emergency room doctor at Lawrence Memorial Hospital who has seen numerous cases of respiratory illnesses including the flu and pneumonia.
In January, the Kansas Department of Health and Environment reported "sporadic" outbreaks of flu-like illnesses, but cases increased in February as the strains mutated to beat the vaccines.
"The upshot is that the vaccine is protective, but you might catch another strain and it's not going to help against those," said Barbara Schnitker, director of nurses at the Lawrence-Douglas County Health Department.
The flu season generally runs from October to April.
Although the health department doesn't treat patients, they do provide vaccination shots.
And while anyone can request a flu shot, health officials said only "high risk" cases should consider one this late in the flu season. High-risk cases include people who are 65 and older, people with chronic heart and lung disorders, children and teen-agers who require long-term aspirin therapy and women in the second or third trimester of pregnancy.
Not everyone who exhibits flu-like symptoms, which include a fever, cough, and aches and pains, actually have influenza. The KDHE doesn't require hospitals to report influenza cases, so many cases are not identified through testing.
Loney, however, said he's seen his share of the respiratory illness this year.
"We're kind of at the end of the season, but everybody's getting hit because it's just something being handed around," he said.
Loney said up to a one-third or one-half of the 60 to 90 emergency room visits each day concern respiratory illnesses.
Loney's advice: take aspirin or ibuprofen for the fever, drink lots of fluids and get as much rest as possible. If a fever persists, or the pain and coughing worsen, see a doctor.
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