SEDGWICK COUNTY, The Sedgwick County Division of Health announced the first reports of influenza in the county on Monday.
The health department says while an increase in cases usually starts in December, now is the time to get the flu shot.
Flu vaccinations are recommended for anyone six months and older, unless otherwise directed by a physician.
Symptoms of the flu start suddenly and include fever that lasts 3-4 days, body aches, chills, tiredness, cough, and headache.
The flu virus is spread from person-to-person by mouth droplets during talking, coughing or sneezing.
You can prevent spreading the flu by getting a flu shot, washing your hands and coughing and sneezing into your elbow - not your hands.
The Center for Disease Control says activity began in Kansas about this time last year and ended up being one of the worst flu seasons in decades.
"We don't know what this year is going to be like," says Sedgwick County Division of Health Health Protection Director Chris Steward. "The vaccine last year was actually a pretty good match to the strains that were circulating, but it was just a very severe season.
Steward says the flu shot is the best way to protect yourself.
"It is OK to get it now," she says. "The CDC is recommending people get it in October and it is available now."
The Sedgwick County Division of Health at 2716 W. Central provides free flu shots to uninsured adults age 19 and older and to children age 18 and younger with CHIP, Medicaid, Amerigroup, United Healthcare or Sunflower. A sliding fee scale down to $2 may be applied for uninsured children age 18 and younger with proof of income.
If you do not qualify for a SCDOH flu shot, visit your primary care physician or neighborhood pharmacy to receive one. Visit http://www.flu.gov/# or call 316-660-7300 with questions.
The CDC has already determined the vaccine for this year by studying influenza in the Southern Hemisphere during our summer season and considering which strains have spread in the past.
Steward says although the vaccine fights against the two most common strains of the flu, there are other precautions you should take.
"You just need to make sure that you are aware of washing your hands. That's the No. 1 way you can prevent disease of all types is to wash your hands," she says. "And make sure you clean and disinfect surfaces, stay away from people who are coughing and sneezing and then if you do get ill, stay home if you're sick so that you can not spread that to other people."
Steward says the steps to prevent the flu will also protect you from colds and respiratory viruses, which are likely to spread this year, but don't have a vaccine.
Children as young as six months old can get the flu vaccine. The CDC predicts the nasal mist will be more effective this year than it was last year, but it won't have data until a little farther into the flu season.