Unusual flu season contributes to 11 deaths in MO

Widespread flu activity across the state prompts the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services to urge you to get your flu shot.

So far this season, eleven people have died in Missouri from influenza-associated illness.  Department Director, Dr. Randall Williams, says we're experiencing an unusual flu season this year which could indicate a year that's exceptionally hard on children.

"In a normal year, you usually see a peak of Influenza-A and then late in the season ... February/March ... you see a peak of Influenza-B.  So seeing it this year, we're seeing a peak of Influenza-B early, it makes us just concerned that we may even see more coming in in February."

Williams says Influenza-B is traditionally harder on children, especially those 5 and younger.  To date, there have been 32 pediatric deaths in the U.S. because of the flu, although none of those cases have been reported in Missouri.  

The Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services says the best way to avoid the flu is get your flu vaccine, wash your hands often, and, in general, just take good care of yourself; getting plenty of rest, staying hydrated, and exercising.

But if you fool around and contract the flu, what should you do?  Williams says it's not absolutely necessary to see your doctor although you might want to touch base with them over the phone.  However, Williams says some sub groups should probably see their doctor in person.

"For certain groups, especially children under 2 or people who have immunocompromised because they're on chemo therapy or taking drugs, for instance for cancer, we highly recommend they do see a doctor so they can get on anti-virals.  Both the flu vaccination and anti-virals have been shown, even if you get the flu, to decrease the morbidity or the seriousness of it."

Williams says the state has experienced a 15-percent increase in flu vaccinations in the past year, meaning 150,000 more Missourians got their shot.  Williams gives at least part of the credit to Governor Mike Parson and the First Lady who received their flu shots publicly last October, urging their fellow Missourians to follow suit.