Area's flu season moderate so far

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Cape Girardeau County is one of the counties in Missouri most affected by the flu, said Lesha Peterson, influenza surveillance coordinator for Missouri. Cape Girardeau County has 152 cases; 22 were reported last week, she said.

While pockets of areas are more affected by the illness, she said, overall the numbers are much lower than for the same period last year, with 2,864 confirmed cases so far and 16,487 in 2008. Missouri's season total last year was more than 30,000.

"So, compared to last year, this is nothing," she said.

Vanessa Landers, public health nurse with the Cape Girardeau County Public Health Center, called this season moderate compared to last year, but that some people who get sick don't have the virus.

"The flu is a respiratory virus. A lot of people think because they have diarrhea and vomiting, they have the flu," she said.

Debbie Pliemling, director of the Stoddard County Public Health Center, said of the 30 people had confirmed cases of the flu in her county, "it's split down the middle between A and B strains," mostly infecting children between the ages of 5 and 14.

Wash hands often

Nationwide, nearly 20 children, none of whom were from Missouri, have died during this flu season. Pliemling said it's important to emphasize handwashing at this time of year.

"It can prevent a lot of stuff when you feel symptoms coming on, stay in, get plenty of rest and lots of fluids," she said.

In Bollinger County, Public Health Center director Beverly Piepenbrok said the five confirmed cases were all among children between the ages of 6 and 10. The only other case, reported and confirmed last fall, was also a child, she said.

Public health nurse Dianne Holzum said the Bollinger County Health Center is still offering flu vaccines.

"It will take two weeks [to become fully effective] but the vaccine's good through June," she said. The shots are offered from 8 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. on Wednesdays and no appointments are needed, she said. Bollinger County Health Center is at 107 Highway 51 North, Marble Hill.

Piepenbrok and Holzum said that people should be prepared to stay home if they get sick despite taking precautions.

Fewer than 26 flu cases have been reported in Scott County this year while Perry County has recorded less than 51, according to state figures. Health officials for those two counties could not be reached for comment.

Flu statistics are updated weekly online at www.dhss.mo.gov/Influenza/MapALL200908.h....

pmcnichol@semissourian.com

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107 Highway 51 North, Marble Hill, MO

405 N. Spring, Suite 1, Perryville, MO

1121 Linden St., Cape Girardeau, MO

102 Grove Estates Court, Sikeston, MO

1001 North Highway 25, Bloomfield, MO

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