The flu still has a grip on much of the nation, and local experts are sticking with the message they have consistently sent: Get a flu shot, wash your hands frequently and well, and stay home if you have the fever or other symptoms.
“I know I sound like a broken record all the time, but wash your hands,” said Andrew Warlen, health director for the city of Independence.
The flu has hit hard and relatively early, though Warlen said it appears to have eased over the last three weeks.
Independence has reported 964 cases through Tuesday, almost four-fifths of them Type A. Fewer cases were reported in the last week than in the week before. Overall, the total number of cases has already exceeded the winters of 2014-15 and 2015-16. It’s not far below the total for all of last winter, when the flu peaked in late February.
Jackson County figures -- which don’t include Independence or Kansas City -- are somewhat similar, with 3,992 cases through last Saturday. That’s on pace to exceed all of last winter and has already exceeded the three winters before that. Cases spiked in early January, fell, then jumped again last week.
There are active steps to take.
“One is make sure you’re washing your hands,” said Dr. David Voran, who practices family medicine at Truman Medical Center Lakewood and who teaches family and community medicine at UMKC.
Also, he says, don’t go to work if you’re sick. Get good rest. Wipe down your work station.
An annual flu shot remains the No. 1 recommendation.
“It’s not too late for that,” Voran said this week.
A flu shot doesn’t give you a 100 percent guarantee against getting the flu, but it reduces both the likelihood of getting it and reduces the severity if you do.
“Once you get vaccinated, you pre-arm your immune system to ward off disease,” Voran said.
Warlen agreed – “An annual flu vaccine is really your best best to not get sick with flu,” he said – and echoed Voran’s stress on handwashing. Also, cough or sneeze into your elbow. Stay home until you’ve been free of fever without the aid of drugs such as acetaminophen (Tylenol) for 24 hours.
Are those alcohol-based hand sanitizers OK for keeping hands clean?
“That’s definitely a second choice,” Warlen said.