Both Pettis County and the state of Missouri are experiencing widespread cases of the flu.

The Department of Health and Senior Services issued a release Tuesday stating 11,171 cases of influenza have been reported in Missouri to date.  

Eleven people have died from influenza-associated illness in Missouri this season. Nationally, influenza activity remains high, and forecasts from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention suggest it will remain elevated for several more weeks.

Pettis County has seen an increase in the number of reported cases, according to Pettis County Health Center Administrator JoAnn Martin.  

“We started to see a significant increase in the number of reported cases starting with the week ending Dec. 28,” Martin said Tuesday. “The cases continued to increase during the past week. So far we have had over 120 cases reported. These numbers only reflect those who have gone to the doctor, been tested and those results reported to the Health Center, so it is a fraction of those who have influenza.” 

According to Martin, influenza is often shared during the holiday season as individuals travel and visit with friends and family. It is a pattern that has continued this year. 

The CDC, DHSS and Martin noted predictions are for a long and severe influenza season. All three recommend anyone who has not yet been vaccinated should still do so. This includes anyone over the age of 6 months. Pregnant women are also highly encouraged to receive the vaccination to protect the baby after birth and before it is old enough to receive its own vaccination. Antibodies can be passed onto the developing baby during the mother’s pregnancy.

“Flu vaccination remains the best way to prevent the flu and its potentially serious complications,” a DHSS news release states. “Not only can it prevent flu, it has also been shown in several studies to reduce the severity of illness in vaccinated people who still get sick.” 

The release cited a CDC study that looked at data from flu seasons between 2010 and 2014. It found vaccination reduced the risk of flu-associated death by 51% among children with underlying high-risk medical conditions and by 65% among healthy children.

Prior to the semester break, attendance in the Sedalia School District 200 remained at or above the 90% threshold, according to district reports. Average attendance was reported at 91.94% during the Jan. 13 board meeting.

“The high level of activity nationwide is concerning,” Director of DHSS Dr. Randall Woods said in a statement. “While we have not yet experienced the level of flu activity of all of our neighboring states, the traditional peak time of the season is still forthcoming.”

According to the CDC, “flu viruses are thought to spread mainly from person to person through droplets made when people with flu cough, sneeze or talk. Flu viruses also may spread when people touch something with the flu virus on it and then touch their mouth, eyes or nose.”

The CDC states those infected with the flu may be able to infect others one day before symptoms develop and five to seven days after becoming sick.

The CDC offers the following suggestions to prevent the flu:

• Get a yearly flu vaccination.

• Avoid close contact with sick people.

• Wash your hands often with soap and water. 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.

Symptoms of the flu include fever or feeling feverish/chills, cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, muscle or body aches, headaches, and fatigue (tiredness). Some people may have vomiting and diarrhea, though this is more common in children than adults.

It is recommended anyone who is experiencing these symptoms drink plenty of water or clear liquids to prevent dehydration. Anyone experiencing symptoms of the flu should seek treatment from their health care provider

The Pettis County Health Center does have flu vaccines available. To schedule an appointment, call 660-827-1130.

Education Reporter

Hope Lecchi is the education reporter for the Democrat, covering all things education in Sedalia and Pettis County, as well as providing general assignment and feature coverage. She can be reached at 660-530-0144.

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