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Flu cases in Kansas City rise steadily

Updated: 2013-12-28T13:55:24Z

By ALAN BAVLEY

The Kansas City Star

Consider yourself fortunate if you got a flu shot for the holidays.

The latest statistics show that the number of flu cases in Kansas City has risen steadily in the past few weeks, a possible sign that the season may peak early in the new year.

“We’re kind of mirroring last year,” when the flu season peaked in mid-January, said Jeff Hershberger of the Kansas City Health Department.

Confirmed cases reported to the Health Department this season jumped from 75 during Thanksgiving week to 264 during the week ending Dec. 15.

“While the numbers still look pretty low,” Hershberger said, “they’re accelerating.”

The local numbers reflect a national trend. Data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show flu cases spiked during the week ending Dec. 21. Reports of influenza-like illnesses were running high in Missouri and “moderate” in Kansas, according to the CDC.

Numbers of confirmed flu cases are always underestimates because not everyone with the flu sees a doctor and not every doctor routinely gives flu tests, Hershberger said. Another hitch this year is that the prevalent H1N1 flu virus doesn’t always show up on rapid flu tests used at doctors’ offices.

H1N1 also was the most common flu virus in 2009. And as was the case four years ago, it is hitting adolescents and young adults particularly hard, in some cases causing severe illnesses in otherwise healthy people, Hershberger said.

With flu and other respiratory infections prevalent, Hershberger said it’s important to wash hands frequently to keep the viruses from spreading, and there’s still time to get a flu shot.

To reach Alan Bavley, call 816-234-4858 or send email to abavley@kcstar.com.

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