Reported flu cases on rise in Missouri at the end of 2012

Monday, January 7, 2013
An unidentified person receives a flu vaccination Friday at the Cape Girardeau County Public Health Center. (submitted)

Missouri is seeing a dramatic rise in the number of reported flu cases this winter.

According to a report issued by the Department of Health and Senior Services, the state had 9,842 reported flu cases during the last week of 2012. During the same period in 2011, there were 378 cases.

Vanessa Landers, communicable-disease coordinator at the Cape Girardeau County Public Health Center, said there's no accounting for the statewide increase in flu cases or why they have come earlier in the winter than usual.

"It's hard to determine how the flu can hit," Landers said. "We typically see more cases of flu later in the winter, but that's not the case this season. We've always looked at the previous year's numbers to see if they can determine future trends, but we're obviously seeing a lot more flu cases than last year. No one's sure why that is."

In Cape Girardeau County, Landers said, more than 250 cases of flu have been reported since October.

"That's a reasonable number," she added. "It's a little more than last year, but, thankfully, nothing outrageous."

There also are more flu cases being reported nationwide. According to the website for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the number of people across the country visiting a health care provider for influenza has climbed during the last four weeks. The CDC also reported that Missouri and 29 other states have high levels of inluenza-like illness activity.

One reason for the rise in flu cases could be a fault in the vaccine used to fight the sickness.

"The current vaccine contains certain influenza strains that fight against flu viruses when they enter the body," Landers said. "But it is without the strain known as B-Victoria. If that particular strain enters the system of a vaccinated person, there's nothing to fight against it. So far, we've seen over 200 cases of B-Victoria flu at the health center."

According to Landers, a way to combat the flu is to use common sense in the winter.

"People should wash their hands often," she said. "They should dress for the cold temperatures. If they do get sick with flu, they should stay at home and not spread it. And people should also get vaccinated; it's the smart thing to do."

However, there is only a limited supply of the vaccine left at the public health center.

"We've given about 4,500 vaccinations against the flu since October," Landers said. "That's quite an amount. We won't have our supply replenished until the fall, so if anyone wants one they should come in while they last."

klewis@semissourian.com

388-3635

Pertinent address:

1121 Linden St., Cape Girardeau, Mo.

Map of pertinent addresses

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