A sign the flu is about to descend upon city; something called an EBUS coming to town; 23rd Street retailer set to close

Santa may make a list and check it twice, but some of us forgot to set an iPhone reminder for Christmas shopping. So, let’s do a quick news and notes version of Town Talk today.

• You have a built-in excuse to not hug Great Aunt Bertha at this year’s holiday dinner. The flu is beginning to spread its way across Lawrence. I covered a Lawrence Memorial Hospital board meeting this week, and staff members there provided an update on the latest flu news. In the last week, they conducted 93 tests for influenza, and 20 of the results came back positive for the flu. That is a pretty high positive rate, I’m told.

“It could be a bad season for the flu,” Karen Shumate, chief operating officer for the hospital, told board members.

The situation warrants watching over the next few weeks, and the Douglas County Health Department will be doing so. It has an influenza surveillance program. The program tracks how many patients come to the emergency room with flu-like symptoms. The chart below shows that for most of this flu season cases actually have been average or slightly below. But the last week has seen an uptick. It indicates we may be at the beginning of a spike. If the chart is a good predictor, we’re going to see a lot more flu cases in the next few weeks. Health care officials, of course, recommend getting a flu shot, and also taking more basic precautions such as washing your hands, covering your cough and avoiding Bertha’s embrace.

• Perhaps you are like me and think that something called an E-Bus is likely not good. It seems like it would be a plot point for another Sandra Bullock, Keanu Reeves sequel to the movie “Speed.” (Mark Zuckerberg has remotely taken control of transit buses everywhere, and is forcing passengers to watch kitten videos.)

But actually, an EBUS is a pretty significant new medical device for the community. Traci Hoopingarner, chief nursing officer for LMH, told board members that the hospital recently purchased a $350,000 EBUS, which is shorthand for an endobronchial ultrasound device. The device is used to diagnose lung cancer. It is a much less invasive procedure than the old biopsy method of detecting lung cancer. Currently, such a device doesn’t exist in Lawrence, and patients routinely are sent to Topeka or Kansas City for the procedure. The device isn’t quite operational but should be soon. The hospital has to do about $50,000 worth of construction work to accommodate the machine.

It does sound like a great advancement for Lawrence cancer care, but I’m still going to be wary of a Keanu Reeves outbreak.

• One more LMH note: It was announced that the LMH Endowment Association provided $750,000 of support to LMH in 2017. That’s up from $436,000 last year. The endowment association is under new leadership. Rebecca Smith became executive director in April after having served in endowment roles at KU, the University of Wisconsin and the University of Nebraska.

• If you were planning to stuff someone’s stocking with some tile or laminate flooring, you soon will have one less Lawrence location to buy the goods. The Factory Surplus store near 23rd and Harper is closing on Saturday, Dec. 23, a manager of the store told me. If you are unfamiliar with the location, it used to house the Bargain Depot store. If you are unfamiliar with the Bargain Depot store, then you must use dollar bills to blow your nose. The manager of Factory Surplus, which specialized in flooring materials, said a deal has been reached for someone to buy the building at 1547 E. 23rd St. However, he didn’t have details, and I haven’t yet seen a change of ownership go through the county system. But I’ll keep an eye out and let you know if there is word of a new development.

• The final note is perhaps the most important: Have a safe, peaceful and joyous Christmas holiday.