Published on February 28, 2014

Flu season on the wane in Lawrence

By Giles Bruce, Lawrence Journal World

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Thursday, February 27, 2014

The flu season in Lawrence and across the state looks to be slowing down.

Marc Scarbrough, MD Hospitalist, Lawrence Memorial HospitalMarc Scarbrough, Hospitalist at Lawrence Memorial Hospital, said flu activity at the hospital is on the wane after a busy December and January. Through the end of January, Lawrence Memorial Hospital had 251 positive cases of influenza, compared to 117 in the entire 2012-13 flu season. The flu season runs from September to May.

Scarbrough said that while this flu season may have been worse locally than the previous one, it wasn't as bad as that of five or six years ago and wasn't by any means "overwhelming." Still, this year's flu — the predominant strain was H1N1 — was quite relentless.

"In a few of the cases, it was quite disturbing how virulent it was. ... For whatever reason, it seemed to target relatively younger folks in a more severe way," he said. "I can't remember hearing of someone having such severe lung damage they had to go on a cardiopulmonary bypass machine."

The current season hasn't been as deadly statewide as 2012-13. As of this week, 27 Kansans have died as a direct result of influenza, compared to 48 through the same time period last flu season, according to the Kansas Department of Health and Environment. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently downgraded Kansas from having widespread flu to regional flu.

But the flu season isn't on the downslope for Kansas University students who utilize KU Student Health Services. Douglas Dechairo, director and chief of staff at KU Student Health Services, said that while the clinic doesn't track influenza cases, this year's flu season has been busier than the previous one — even now.

"Our volume of business is definitely pretty high right now and really has been ever since the students came back from their winter break," said Dechairo, though he noted the clinic has also been seeing a high number of students infected by a stomach virus.

Kim Ens, director of the clinic services at the Lawrence-Douglas County Health Department, warns that the flu season still lasts a few more months and people should still be sure to wash their hands often and stay home if they're sick. In addition, the health department still has flu shots available for people who haven't gotten them yet. Ens noted that while influenza activity appears to be winding down, "it could still spike at any moment."

Flu season on the wane in Lawrence

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