Mid-Missouri flu season is quickly growing

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COLUMBIA - Missouri residents could expect a large number of influenza A cases. 

The Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services is reporting that estimated flu activity statewide in Missouri,  has increased to a widespread level. 

In Boone County, the number of cases reported December 24 – 30 of 2017 was 292. The total reported cases for the 2017- 2018 season from Oct. 1 – Dec. 30, of 2017 was 678. 

In comparison from last years flu season, the Columbia influenza chart stated that the year of 2015-2016 peak was just above 250 later in the season, while 2017-2018 peak was 292 earlier in the season around December. 

Cole County saw an increase in Influenza A cases too.

Mary Telthorst, Director of Clinical Services Cole County Health Department, provided this data:

From 2015- 2016, it received 550 total reported cases. From 2017- 2018 Cole County has already reached 552 reported cases and have not reached the end of its peak of the flu season yet.

At Kilgore Pharmacy, pharmacist Bill Morrissey has seen a spike in flu medication sales.

"Absolutely, ever since Thanksgiving, the Thanksgiving holiday we saw kind of an uptick in the number of prescriptions for it, but just in the last week at this location we've seen about 40 prescriptions, adult prescriptions for tamiflu," He said.

Morrissey said holidays could affect the spike.

"Over the holidays you know people get together, families get together, you know kids that maybe pick it up from school bring it home to grandma, grandpa, aunts, uncles, etc and it's there's a lot of people mixing that don't normally see each other so that would be my speculation," He said. 

It could be difficult to tell the difference between cold and flu, but he said the body pains makes it easy to tell. 

" I think most differentiates it from a really bad viral infection like a respiratory upper respiratory track infection is the body aches that come with it are pretty distinct," Morrissey said. 

Morrissey said one of the easiest way to prevent the spread of the flu is washing your hands. 

Columbia and Boone County Public Health and Human Services community relations specialist Eric Stann said its not possible to tell how severe a flu season will be. 

"There's varying factors. there may be an increase after like holiday for example because people are traveling and visiting family friends," Stann said. 

His number one way to preventing the flu is through a flu vaccine or flu shot.

A flu shot doesn't guarantee prevention from the flu. He said that if you did end up getting the flu, the symptoms would be less severe. 

"Best to have good hygiene habits, especially during these winter months, especially covering your cough and sneeze, and doing that into your elbow or sleeve not into your hands to avoid potentially spreading germs to others, staying home when your sick, and wash your hand frequently with soap and water."

Stann said the way to determining a flu from cold is also, the pain.

"The best way to determine if you do potentially have the flu is the flu symptoms will appear suddenly like being hit by a truck, versus a cold where they appear more gradually..." He said. 

According to Stann, spreading the flu, can be very easy.

"It is contagious, you can spread the flu to others to up about six feet away from you, and you affect others beginning one day before symptoms develop," He said. 

One Kilgore customer Rick Perkins said all he does is practice a healthy lifestyle.

"I just drink a lot of liquids you know I eat a lot of vegetables you know, somehow I've been lucky I guess," said Perkins.

He said he has never experienced the flu, but is close to people who have.

"Yea, I know quite a few people that had it that I try to stay away from them as much as possible. Yep, and they had it it lasted them almost a month," Perkins said.