Topeka Kansans are reeling from influenza and flu-like symptoms, government health officials said, and the state’s death toll is near 700 since the flu season began.
The state has recorded 699 deaths from Sept. 1 through Monday in which flu and/or pneumonia was a direct or contributing factor, The Topeka Capital-Journal reported Thursday.
Kansas Department of Health and Environment spokeswoman Miranda Steele said the rate of people being treated for influenza-like illness in Kansas is about 5 percent.
That rate never reached 5 percent in the previous two flu seasons, instead getting up to only 3.5 percent. The flu usually peaks in February, but it was about a month ahead this year, officials said.
Curt McGeeney, an emergency medicine physician for Stormont-Vail Health Care in Topeka, said large numbers of people are coming to the ER with flu-like symptoms, including nasal congestion, sore throat, cough, achy muscles, headache and fever.
Many patients with underlying diseases will be admitted to the hospital, McGeeney said. Others are treated with Tamiflu, an oral medicine that can shorten the duration of flu symptoms. Some are sent home with instructions to rest, keep hydrated and monitor their symptoms.
People are being urged to cover their coughs, wash their hands frequently and stay home when sick. Flu shots are still available and effective for this season, officials said.