Flu season off to a fast start in Missouri

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COLUMBIA - Flu season is hitting Missouri hard and earlier than normal, according to a report by the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services. 

As of November 25, there were 1,535 cases of the flu reported in the state, more than four times the 379 cases and 319 cases reported at the same time in 2016 and 2015, respectively. 

“With every influenza season we go through spikes,” MU Health Care of Infectious Diseases representative Christelle Ilboudo said. “This is one year that we have predicted will be worse then the last two years just as it was seen in the southern hemisphere when they had their flu season last spring and summer. So this is expected.”

Ilboudo said different viruses circulate each season and some can be more powerful than others. 

“This year the one that is the most predominant one is the influenza A (H3N2) that they’re predicting has been really bad in the southern hemisphere,” Ilboudo said. 

Ilboudo said the vaccine this year is made to target this new string of the virus.

She said the heaviest months of reported flu cases start in November because families are traveling for the holidays. 

Public Health Planner at the Columbia/Boone County Department of Public Health and Human Services Jason Wilcox said there are still vaccines available at their office. 

“It isn’t too late to get the flu vaccine,” Wilcox said. “The vaccine is really your first line of defense against the flu.” 

Wilcox said they offer free vaccines to people under the age of 18. For anyone 19 or older they charge $19 out of pocket and can bill through insurance. 

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates flu results between 9.2 million and 35.6 million illnesses, between 140,000 and 710,000 hospitalizations and between 12,000 and 56,000 deaths annually in the U.S. 

To prevent getting the flu the Missouri Department of Health recommends getting the vaccine, avoiding close contact with sick people, washing your hands, covering your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze, clean and disinfect commonly touched surfaces and stay at home when you are sick. 

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