COLUMBIA- A fever, cough or perhaps some aches along with a runny or stuffy nose could be more than a slight cold early this December. It appears influenza is infecting children, adults and the elderly earlier than usual for the 2012-2013 season.
The Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services compiles weekly reports throughout the state to monitor the number of statewide cases of influenza. Through the week ending Dec. 1, 2012, 3,162 cases of influenza have been reported throughout the state which is a 1,164.8% increase from a five-season medium.
"We are definitely seeing more strains of Influenza B this year as opposed to last year," Providence Urgent Care Dr. Jason Zerrer said. "We saw a big hike of cases in early November, then it slowed down. Now it's happening again after kids went on break and left the town and came into contact with different germs."
Boone County Health Department Nursing Supervisor Trina Teacutter said the number of cases reported to the health department are higher than last year thus far.
"The number is definitely higher right now, but flus peak at different seasons," Teacutter said. "We like to say flus are predictably unpredictable."
The greatest number of cases are reported for 5-14 year olds, which is expected as germs spread quickly throughout schools and public places where children are often found.
However, KOMU 8 News spoke with Columbia Public Schools' Michelle Baumstark who noted they're not seeing anything out of the ordinary as compared to past years. Baumstark said despite the fact that the normal number of flu cases are being reported in Columbia Public Schools, it is still important to make sure children are washing their hands and that they stay home from school if they have flu symptoms.
Teacutter added it isn't too late to get a flu shot, and, more importantly, it's imperative for those who have already been infected with the flu to get a flu shot as well.
"Even though they have had the flu, they could still be infected with another strain. The shot covers three strains so, if you've had one, there is a chance you could come across another if you didn't get the vaccine," Teacutter said.
Teacutter also noted some local businesses are out of the flu vaccine but the health department still has a large supply. Children 18 years old and younger can receive a free flu shot at the health department and the price depends on insurance for anyone over the age of 18. If the vaccine is paid out of pocket, it is $25. No appointment is needed.