The flu and its unpleasant symptoms - fever, cough, headache, fatigue, congestion and a runny nose - have been diagnosed in Lawrence.
The illness doesn't discriminate. Even the Kansas University men's basketball team, which eats a supervised diet and is in excellent physical shape, has been ravaged by bouts with a 24-hour virus. At least five team members have had publicized battles with the bug.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in its latest report, dated Dec. 23, identifies Kansas as one of 25 states with sporadic occurrences of the flu. Sixteen states have reports of regional or widespread flu outbreaks.
Now is the time when flu cases typically begin to appear in Kansas, said Sheryl Tirol-Goodwin, communications coordinator for the Lawrence-Douglas County Health Department.
"Typically the flu will peak at the end of January and into February, sometimes even into March," she said.
What's not yet known is how severe this year's strain of the influenza virus will be. Typically, between 5 percent and 20 percent of the U.S. population gets the flu in an average year, the CDC reports.
Mai Do, marketing coordinator for Student Health Services at KU, said Watkins Memorial Health Center had been relatively quiet during the winter break, but the center had taken proactive steps to help combat the spread of the flu.
"Everyone here has gotten a flu shot. For students, we give students health tips, which includes getting a flu shot," Do said. "Washing your hands is a huge way not to spread colds, germs and flu viruses."
Watkins likely will get somewhat busier as classes resume and the flu season ramps up.
A spokeswoman for Lawrence Memorial Hospital said the emergency department had seen more cases of the flu in the last few weeks.
The health department also wants people to know that it's not too late to get a flu shot, though the time is now because "it takes a couple of weeks for the immunity to build up," Tirol-Goodwin said.
Some people resist getting a flu shot out of fear that the vaccine actually increases the likelihood of catching the flu. Tirol-Goodwin said that wasn't the case, and the CDC agrees. The flu vaccine itself contains dead viruses that impart the immunity without causing recipients to become ill.
Also available this flu season is a nasal spray flu vaccine, though a recent study in Michigan indicates that the spray may not be as effective in adults.
The study, involving about 1,250 Michigan adults, found that a shot was between 67 percent and 77 percent successful at preventing the flu. The nasal spray was between 30 percent and 57 percent effective, The Associated Press reported.
Flu vaccines are available for anyone between 6 months and 3 years old for $16, as well as for anyone older than 3 for $21, at the health department during its normal clinic hours.
The county health department has administered about 4,300 flu vaccines since Oct. 1, while Watkins has administered about 1,000 this flu season.
Tirol-Goodwin said there was no way to identify the number of cases in Douglas County because the flu is not a reportable disease.
The flu vaccine is not recommended for everyone, such as people who are allergic to eggs. For information on which individuals should not receive a flu vaccine, as well as more general facts, visit the CDC's Web site at www.cdc.gov/flu.