While flu cases are on the rise throughout most of the country, Missouri’s flu activity has been low so far this season, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
“We’re kind of getting surrounded, and other places are definitely seeing rises, which we haven’t seen yet, so there might just be a little bit of a lag,” said Dylan Steigerwald, epidemiologist for the Jefferson County Health Department.
According to the CDC, Missouri flu activity is low, while it’s high in Illinois, Arkansas, Kansas, Iowa, Oklahoma and Nebraska.
Steigerwald said data indicates the flu has been moving across the county from both coasts.
“Maybe that’s why we’ve kind of had a lag in our cases, because we’re kind of in the middle here,” he said.
As of Jan. 4, Jefferson County had a total of 183 laboratory-positive influenza cases this season, which officially started Sept. 29 and ends in May.
Missouri had seen 5,900 cases as of Dec. 28.
One adult flu-related death has been reported in the county this season, Steigerwald said Monday.
As of Dec. 28, there had been eight flu-related deaths in the state, according to the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services reports.
As of Jan. 4, the age groups with the highest percentage of flu cases were 25 to 49, with 34.4 percent of the cases, and 15 to 24, with 18 percent.
“Usually, we kind of see that and I think it’s because those age groups tend to congregate together,” Steigerwald said.
He said those age groups include students and parents of students. The group with the third highest percentage of flu is 5 to 14, with 13.7 percent of cases.
“They’re usually school-age children, who might not have as good hygiene practices as adults,” Steigerwald said.
He said flu cases have not yet started to peak in Jefferson County.
“Since our numbers are still low, I would say we’ll probably start to see a rise in the next few weeks,” Steigerwald said.
During the 2018-2019 season, there were 2,466 positive cases and 10 flu-related deaths over the eight-month-long flu season. That compares to 3,982 cases and 16 deaths during the 2017-2018 season, the worst on record for Jefferson County.
Steigerwald said he recommends anyone older than 6 months get the flu vaccination.
If someone has insurance, the shot will most likely be covered.
The Health Department takes part in a program called Vaccines for Children, which provides flu shots to those 18 years and younger who are uninsured or underinsured, Steigerwald said.
The flu shot is available at all three Health Department locations: the Hillsboro office, 405 Main St.; the Arnold office, 1818 Lonedell Road; and the High Ridge office, 5684 Hwy. PP, next to the Northwest Branch of the Jefferson County Library. The offices are open 8 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Monday through Friday.
Steigerwald said flu symptoms include fever, aches, chills or sweating, and weakness.
He advises people who get the flu to wash their hands frequently and stay away from others.
“Stay home from work and school, especially while you are still running a fever,” Steigerwald said.