Missouri state health officials have reported a four-fold increase in influenza, or flu cases to start out the 2017-2018 flu season.
As of November 25, 2017, there were 1,545 cases of the flu reported to the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services, compared to 379 cases reported at the same time last year.
These numbers could indicate that flu season is coming early to the Show-Me State or that it will be particularly severe-as was seen in the southern hemisphere where flu season precedes ours. For 2016-2017, there were more than 70,000 confirmed influenza cases in Missouri. If these trends continue, the state could see even more during the 2017-2018 season.
“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 Dr. Randall Williams, director of the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services. “Now is the time to get your flu shot if you haven’t already. The flu shot combined with proper handwashing are the two most effective things you can do to protect yourself and your loved ones this holiday season.”
Influenza symptoms can include fever, cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, body aches, headache, chills and fatigue. The best way to prevent influenza is to get an influenza vaccine each year as soon as the vaccine is available to the public. Other forms of prevention include hand washing and using alcohol-based hand sanitizers; covering your coughs and sneeze with a disposable tissue or your arm or sleeve; avoid touching your eyes, nose, or mouth; avoid close contact with persons who are sick; stay home when you are sick. Most people who develop influenza will recover with bed rest and do not need medical care or flu antiviral medications.
In certain situations (e.g., influenza outbreaks in settings like nursing homes) flu antiviral medications may be prescribed to high-risk individuals to prevent them from developing influenza. Studies show that flu antiviral medications work best for treatment when they are started within 48 hours of getting sick. However, starting treatment later can still be helpful, especially if the sick person has a high-risk health condition or is very sick from the flu. Follow your health care provider’s instructions for taking these medications.
A flu vaccine is the best form of defense to protect yourself and your loved ones this winter. It takes about two weeks for the vaccine to reach its full protective abilities. Now is the time to get vaccinated so you can protect yourself and loved ones ahead of the upcoming holidays. In addition to getting your flu shot, take these steps to prevent the spread of 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.
It is easy for flu viruses to spread as you travel during the holidays and get together with friends and family. People with flu can pass the virus on to others a day before feeling sick and sometimes for about a week after feeling better, so it’s important to use these steps throughout the flu season.
- Flu vaccines: The shortcomings and the need for a ‘universal’ vaccine
- Flu vaccines: Why egg-based vaccine production is causing problems
- University of Wisconsin-Madison: New, more effective strategy for producing flu vaccines
- Pandemic flu: Vaccines effective in prevention depending on age
- H3N2 mutation in last year’s flu vaccine responsible for lowered efficacy: Penn researchers