The number of people in Lawrence with the flu appears to have leveled off a week after a spike in cases.
Lawrence Memorial Hospital had 145 confirmed cases of influenza in December, with 95 of those during a 12-day span beginning in the middle of the month.
"While it's a little bit earlier than normal, it's not an unusual occurrence this time of year to suddenly see a spike in flu cases," said Kathy Colson, clinic supervisor for the Lawrence-Douglas County Health Department.
Still, she said, it's not too late for people to get immunized, even if they've already had the flu this season, since the shot protects against three strains of the disease
Tips to avoid the flu
- Get vaccinated.
- Cover your nose and mouth when coughing or sneezing.
- Wash your hands frequently.
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth.
- Avoid contact with sick people.
The health department has dispensed 1,275 flu shots since Sept. 1 and still has more available. Vaccines are $25 for children 6 months to 3 years old and $30 for those 3 years and older and are available on a walk-in basis during clinic hours. Area pharmacies and physicians' practices also give the shots.
Colson said the sooner people get flu shots the better, as it takes a week or two for the vaccines to be fully effective.
With classes in the Lawrence school district set to reconvene next week after the winter break, students and their parents will need to remain vigilant to avoid the spread of the flu.
"Our teachers do a great job of continually reminding students about healthy habits, such as proper and frequent hand washing and covering coughs and sneezes," said district spokeswoman Julie Boyle. "Our schools also try to frequently remind parents that they should keep children home from school when they are ill."
In Kansas, the percentage of visits to health care providers for influenza-like illnesses began to spike in mid-December, from less than 2 percent of total visits on the 14th to nearly 5 percent last Saturday, according to the Kansas Department of Health and Environment. Late last month, the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention characterized the state as having a "widespread" problem with the flu.
At least two Kansans have died from the flu during the 2013-14 influenza season, which began in October and lasts until about May.