While the number of reported cases of the flu in Pettis County has increased in recent weeks, residents are asked to follow common guidelines to help prevent contracting or spreading the virus this season.

According to Pettis County Health Administrator JoAnn Martin, the latest data for the week ending Feb. 2 shows a total of 841 cases of influenza in Pettis County since the flu season began.Late Tuesday, Martin notified the Democrat reported cases of influenza have risen to 1,000.

Martin noted the majority of cases have been in the 5- to 14-year-old population. Type B is the most common type of influenza reported.

“Proportionately, there have been significantly fewer cases in the 65 years of age and older population,” Martin said. “We are just now receiving the reports for the week that ended on Feb. 7.”

According to information from the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services, 6,995 laboratory-positive influenza cases have been reported statewide during the counting period of Jan. 26 to Feb. 1. This included 3,006 vases of influenza A, 3,927 of influenza B and 62 un-typed cases.

The season-to-date total in the state is 34,635 (38.3% influenza A; 60.6% influenza B and 1.1% un-typed.)

“For the past three weeks, we have been averaging about 180 cases per week,” Martin said.  “These numbers only reflect those individuals who have gone to a health care provider, were tested and the health care provider has reported the information to us.”

Martin added the figures do not account for those who do not seek medical care or are not tested or reported. 

“I do not know if we have passed the peak of cases,” Martin commented. “I will have a better idea when this week’s cases are counted. 

“February is traditionally the peak month for influenza infections,” she continued. “At this time, CDC (Center for Disease Control) has not released information on the effectiveness of the influenza vaccine for the 2019-20 season. We do not always receive the information on whether individuals reported with influenza have been vaccinated.”

In mid-January, 11,171 cases of influenza were reported. Pettis County reported a total of 120 cases of the virus on Jan. 17.  

Martin’s figures seem to be reflected in attendance in the Sedalia School District 200. District attendance has dropped 1.5% in February. In January, overall district attendance was reported at 92.08%. In February on the same count date, attendance was listed at 90.98%.    

According to Martin, the recommendations for decreasing one’s risk of contracting influenza have not changed. Stay home if you are ill, wash your hands frequently, clean surfaces touched by multiple people such as shopping carts, and help those with decreased immune systems by doing errands for them.

“Seek medical care if there are concerns about your symptoms, especially if you have difficulty breathing, have a fever that cannot be controlled by medication or if you have been fever-free and then develop a fever again, particularly with a cough,” Martin cautioned. “Pneumonia is a serious complication of influenza and needs immediate treatment.”

Antiviral medications that decrease the length of influenza symptoms are most effective when started within the first 48 hours of symptoms, according to Martin. 

Influenza symptoms generally start quickly with a fever, headache, cough and body aches, Martin explained. Some individuals may experience nausea and vomiting, particularly children, but it is not influenza without the other symptoms.

“There are other viral infections circulating in the community,” Martin said. “Most start as a common cold and continue with a cough that is not productive but may last four to six weeks. 

“(It’s) very annoying, but the lungs need time to heal from the virus infection,” Martin added. “Unfortunately, many cough remedies do not stop the cough for any extended period of time.”

For individuals who have not received a flu shot it is not too late to do so. Vaccines are available through the Pettis County Health Center. 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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