Tuesday, December 30, 2014

KU Hospital: Two dead from Kansas flu outbreak

University of Kansas Hospital

KANSAS CITY, KAN.—With the Kansas Department of Health and Environment referring to the current flu outbreak as an “epidemic,” The University of Kansas Hospital reports there continue to be significant numbers of patients in the hospital with confirmed cases of the flu, but the hospital is currently accommodating the surge.

The latest numbers from the hospital show 23 inpatients with confirmed cases of the flu with 13 others hospitalized with flu like symptoms and awaiting laboratory confirmations of a flu diagnosis.

There have been two flu deaths among hospital patients in the last two weeks.

“These numbers of flu patients are earlier than normal and in higher numbers than normal.  It’s one of the worst flu surges I have seen in my eight years here,” said Lee Norman, MD, chief medical officer of The University of Kansas Hospital.

“We are somewhat fortunate this surge of flu cases is happening during the holiday period, when the number of elective surgeries is down, meaning we have beds to accommodate the patients.  We have plans in place to handle this type of patient influx when we have our normal high patient census,” noted Dr. Norman.

Dr. Norman said for the most part the flu the hospital is seeing is the H3N2 Type A flu, although some Type B has surfaced as well..  The H3N2 part of the current flu vaccine has been only half as effective as desired. However, he stressed that the vaccine remains our best protection against the flu and its complications.

“Often flu will result in a secondary infection, such as bacterial pneumonia or even drug resistant strains of pneumonia acquired around the community,” Dr. Norman added.

In addition to a flu shot, Dr. Norman stressed the public needs to properly cover their coughs, such as coughing into an elbow, the so-called “Dracula cover.”  

He also said there is no substitute for repeated and thorough hand washing to limit the spread of the flu.

With schools resuming next week, Dr. Norman said it is important that parents keep kids home from school when they are running a fever, and not return them to school until they have been fever free for 24 hours.

Dr. Norman said the same rules apply to adults staying home from work.

Dr. Norman noted a major question is when the flu is serious enough to seek hospitalization or other medical care.

The Centers for Disease Control said the danger signs in children include:
  • Fast breathing or trouble breathing
  • Bluish skin color
  • Not drinking enough fluids
  • Not waking up or not interacting
  • Being so irritable that the child does not want to be held
  • Flu-like symptoms improve but then return with fever and worse cough
  • Fever with a rash
  • Being unable to eat
  • Has trouble breathing
  • Has no tears when crying
  • Significantly fewer wet diapers than normal
In adults
  • Difficulty breathing or shortness of breath
  • Pain or pressure in the chest or abdomen
  • Sudden dizziness
  • Confusion
  • Severe or persistent vomiting
  • Flu-like symptoms that improve but then return with fever and worse cough