Flu season in Missouri gets an early start

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The Missouri Department of Health reports that flu season is off to a fast start this year.

As of Nov. 25, the Missouri Department of Health had received reports of 1,545 cases — four times the 379 cases reported at the same time a year ago.

These numbers could be indicative of a “particularly severe” flu season, according to a Missouri Department of Health news release.

“We know that historically, the intensity or prevalence of flu can vary from year to year. But this year, all indications are that we are seeing more flu earlier in the year and we anticipate more cases,” said Randall Williams, director of the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services.

The Columbia/Boone County Department of Public Health and Human Services said Boone County has also seen a boost in confirmed flu cases, compared to the same time last year.

On Nov. 25 of last year, Boone County’s reported number of lab-confirmed flu cases was 32. This Nov. 25, it was 73.

However, Eric Stann, community relations specialist for the the Health Department, said the numbers may not fully reflect the true figures since “not every person that has the flu goes to their medical provider.”

“We are seeing heightened flu activity compared to last year and even the year before, but flu is difficult to predict and it’s not possible to say when the season will begin, peak and end.”

Vaccine numbers have seen a slight gain in Boone County with 12,498 vaccinations given as of Dec. 1 of this year — a 3.6 percent increase from the 12,047 administered by the same date in 2016.*

“It’s not too late to get a flu shot. The flu shot is your first and best protection against getting the flu,” Stann said.

Recommendations from the Missouri Department of Health to prevent the flu:

Avoid close contact with sick people.Wash your hands often with soap and water, especially after touching shared objects or surfaces such as door knobs, light switches, remote controls, shopping counters, debit card readers, etc. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand rub.Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze. Throw the tissue in the trash after you use it.Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth.Clean and disinfect commonly touched surfaces.Stay home while you’re sick and limit contact with others to keep from infecting them.

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