An outbreak of the dreaded H1N1 influenza virus that started in Missouri late last month now appears to be spreading to Kansas. Right now the death count stands at nine, though reports suggest that total could increase substantially in the next few days.
Unlike many illnesses of its kind, the H1N1 impacts every age group, and not just the very young and very old. Many of the people who have already succumbed to the virus were aged 20 to 60.
Still, that doesn’t mean the H1N1 is ignoring children. The medical team at Children’s Mercy Hospital in Kansas City recently stated that more than one in three children tested for the flu had results come back positive.
That’s a huge concern because, unlike the typical flu, H1N1 specifically targets the lungs. That’s what makes it so lethal, says University of Kansas Hospital Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Lee Norman.
“They’ve got such a bad infection in their lungs that they can’t oxygenate their blood enough to keep all of their vital organs going,” Norman said. “That’s the most obvious and the most severe symptom.”
The problem may be that few people bothered to receive a flu shot this season. Doctors say that many of the patients they’ve seen fall ill failed to take this important pre-flu season step.
Medical experts are encouraging everyone in the United States, and especially people in Missouri and Kansas, to get the flu shot as soon as possible. They’re also encouraging people to carefully wash and disinfect their hands, particularly if a friend, family member, or colleague has become sick. It’s also critical that anyone who feels like a cold is coming on avoid all public areas.