Missouri hit by largest flu season since 2009

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Columbia - The number of flu cases have exploded since last year in Missouri, the Boone County Health Department announced Monday.

Last year, there were 85 cases reported, and as of Monday there have been 1,082 cases in Boone County. The increased number of sick patients is due to an earlier flu season and the makeup of the influenza vaccinations.

The vaccine prepared this year does not match the combination of flu strains going around.

"Flu season, it is predictably unpredictable. We know it's coming every single year, we know kind of the time range it's going to show up, it typically peaks in January and February," said Andrea Waner Public Information Officer for the Columbia/Boone County Public Health and Human Services.

The flu started earlier this year, but the increase in cases is mostly due to the makeup of the vaccine, which is distributed by multiple companies.

Some people are hesitant to get a vaccination because they hear it is not proving effective and there is so many cases. But experts say it is still the best protection from the flu and some level of protection is better than nothing.

"This year, is that one of the strains is a little bit different than last year. Nonetheless still has a lot of value," said Michael Cooperstock, M.D., medical director of MU Health Care's Infection Control Department and a pediatric infectious disease specialist at MU Children's Hospital.

There are still 8-12 weeks left in flu season. Children 6 months and older and people over the age of 65 are most vulnerable. 

Last time the state had a major outbreak was in 2009-2010, when the H1N1 strain hit.

To prevent the spread of influenza, Cooperstock suggests:

  • Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when coughing or sneezing
  • Cough or sneeze into your sleeve at the crook of your arm
  • Wash your hands often with soap and water
  • Use a hand sanitizer containing alcohol if you can't wash your hands
  • Avoid touching your eyes, mouth or nose, which are places where flu usually enters the body
  • Avoid close contact with people who are ill

Vaccinations are still available.