Local health providers urge the public to get flu shots
COLUMBIA - The U.S. government revealed about 80,000 Americans died from the flu and its complications last year. This was the disease's highest death toll in at least four decades.
Trina Teacutter, nursing supervisor at the Columbia/Boone County Department of Public Health and Human Services, said there were about five thousand cases reported in Boone County last season, and 16 flu-related deaths.
Dr. Christelle Illboudo, an MU Health pediatrician and infectious disease expert, says the reason the flu vaccination wasn't as effective last year was due to the predominantly circulating virus.
"Sometimes, we get a really good match between what's in the vaccine and what's going around. This wasn't the case last year," she said.
The predominantly circulating virus was H3N2. Teacutter says changes have been made to the vaccination this year.
"That's not unusual if there's a year where maybe the vaccine wasn't as good of a match for the circulating viruses. The next year they'll change the vaccine in hopes of it being closer to what viruses will be circulating during that season," she said.
Teacutter said it's too early in the season to see what viruses will be circulating this year. She also said the vaccination is made months in advance, so there isn't a way to change it once certain viruses are being reported.
"That is an educated guess that the World Health Organization, CDC, laboratories get together to make that determination of what's going to be in the upcoming year's flu vaccine," she said. "It's based on viruses that are circulating in our flu season here and in the southern hemisphere."
Teacutter said even if the vaccine isn't as affective the year it's given, it's still the absolute best way to protect yourself from the disease.
"The Centers for Disease Control recommends everyone six months of age or older get the flu vaccine every year. That is the number one best thing people can do to protect themselves, to protect their loved ones, to protect their community," she said.
Illboudo said people who are above the age of 65, below the age of 2 and those with chronic illnesses are at a higher risk of getting sick.
"We see more complications because their bodies aren't able to fight as hard as healthy people. So not only should they get the vaccine, but so should family members so they can protect their loved ones," she said.
Teacutter recommends people get the vaccine by the end of October, because peak flu season starts in December. The vaccine takes about two weeks to protect people.
Both the Boone County Health Department and MU Health are offering flu shots to the public. You can find more information on Boone County Health Department's flu shots here, and MU Health's flu shots here.