“Do I have the regular flu or is it the swine flu?”
That’s the question going through people’s minds these days when they get sick.
According to Dr. Randal Claassen of Hillsboro Family Practice, “flu” cases this time of year are probably H1N1.
“I’ve seen probably a dozen flu cases in the clinic,” Claassen said. “For every one case we see, there are probably three or four we don’t see.”
He said there has been one critical case where the patient was transported to a Wichita hospital. That case was confirmed to be H1N1.
“If patients test positive for the seasonal flu, we know it’s the H1N1 because the seasonal flu isn’t here yet,” Claassen said.
The majority of the cases are Tabor College students, the Hillsboro doctor said.
Unfortunately, it’s difficult to identify and diagnose the H1N1 virus, also known as swine flu, because many cases are going undiagnosed.
For those who do seek medical attention, insurance will not pay for testing of H1N1 in doctors’ offices, where a test that can cost as much as $600. Insurance are willing to pay for the special testing only in hospitals. For that reason, many patients and health care providers are not seeking confirmation.
Those with flu-like symptoms are encouraged to stay home and take care of themselves until they are over the illness. Congregating in doctors’ offices will only exacerbate the epidemic. Only patients with severe cases are being seen by doctors.
“I think I had it a couple of weeks ago,” Marion Family Physicians doctor Don Hodson said.
Hodson said cases have been sporadic the past three weeks. He thinks he saw cases of H1N1 when patients had scratchy throats, headaches, fevers — 101 degrees for adults and 104 for children — congestion, and coughs.
There’s not much that can be done for moderate cases other than resting and staying home for at least 24 hours after the fever is gone.
“I’ve seen two or three really ill patients,” Hodson said. Otherwise, the cases were less severe than the regular flu.
County public health administrator Diedre Serene was not available for comment.
One case was noted in Peabody but was not confirmed at press time.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported in April that the first pandemic influenza A (H1N1) was identified in the U.S.
By August, the cumulative number of infections was estimated to be at least 1 million. In Kansas, it was considered to be localized.
Currently, the CDC considers Kansas, with most of the southern half of the U.S., as “widespread” meaning there are cases reported throughout the state.
To date, there have been four H1N1-related deaths in Kansas — children or younger adults. The virus has been confirmed in 55 of the 105 counties in the state.
Visits to health care providers for influenza-like illness, which are tracked by Kansas Department of Health and Environment, have been increasing in certain regions of the state during the past few weeks and are higher nationally than what is typical this time of year.
Symptoms of infection with H1N1 virus are similar to symptoms of seasonal flu and include a fever greater than 100 degrees, body aches, fatigue, coughing, sore throat, respiratory congestions, and in some cases, diarrhea and vomiting.
KDHE no longer is accepting specimens from those seeing doctors with symptoms. In non-hospitalized cases, confirming the illness through testing does not affect treatment and advice given to patients by health care providers.
Most children and adults with the flu who are generally in good health will recover without needing to seek a health care provider. Some people may want to contact their heath care providers for advice on how to care for the flu at home.
Individuals who experience severe illness or who are at high risk of complications from H1N1 influenza infection including children less than 5 years of age, adults 65 years of age and older, pregnant women, and those with chronic medical conditions including asthma, diabetes, and heart disease should contact their health care provider.
According to KDHE, there is no vaccine available yet to protect against the H1N1 virus, but there are treatments that can shorten the course of illness in severe cases.
As with any influenza virus, individuals are encouraged to take the following steps to reduce spread:
- Wash hands thoroughly with soap and warm water or use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer to get rid of most germs. Avoid touching eyes, nose, and mouth.
- If sick, stay home until at least 24 hours after fever or signs of fever without the use of fever-reducing medications to avoid spreading illness to co-workers and friends.
- Cough or sneeze into a tissue and properly dispose. If no tissue is available, cover cough or sneeze with the elbow and not hands.
- Stay healthy by eating a balanced diet, drinking plenty of water, and getting adequate rest and exercise.