Flu numbers in Boone County much lower than last year

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COLUMBIA - The U.S. is right in the middle of flu season. But this year has so far had a lot better news when it comes to the number of people getting sick from the flu.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, or CDC, said the current vaccine has an overall effectiveness rate of 59%, which is the highest since the 2010-11 flu season. 

The Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services said from February 14 through February 21, almost three thousand Missourians were diagnosed with the flu, whereas during that same week in the 2014-15 flu season, 43,782 people suffered from the flu.

Andrea Waner, Columbia/Boone County Public Health and Human Services spokesperson, said Boone County had 2,399 cases of the flu in 2014-15 but only 110 to date in 2015-16. 

Waner said although January and February are usually the peak season for the flu, the vaccine has kept any major flu epidemics at bay so far in 2016.

"The CDC is saying that the vaccine that is being produced and distributed is better matched to the circulating strains of the flu virus than last year," Waner said. 

She said the high number of flu cases in 2015 was because the strain of flu was much different from the strain the generic flu vaccine was produced for.

"A lot of people who had the vaccine were not protected by what they thought they were going to get," Waner said.

The CDC and Columbia/Boone County Public Health and Human Services say the flu will continue to spread for the next few weeks, so anyone who has not yet received the vaccine should get it. 

Waner said Columbia Public Schools students who did not get the vaccine can still come to the Public Health building and get a free vaccine.

"Our ultimate goal is to vaccinate as many people as we can, so we always recommend you call us, and we can see what barriers we can reduce for you," she said.

The CDC says the flu can be in effect as late as May.