Flu could be gearing up for peak season

Tuesday, January 9, 2018

With the winter weather here, the nasty flu bug is known to rear its ugly head. There have been many reported cases thoughout the United States and some here in Saline County. Elizabeth Frerking, communicable disease nurse at the Saline County Health Department, points out the flu season could be gearing up to hit its peak.

Frerking said the flu is around all the time, but it is not typically seen until a certain time of the year. She said that it was as early as October when a flu case was noticed in Saline County.

"But it would just be one or two cases here and there," she said. " you can have a peak flu season any time of year," she said. "You could theoretically have peak flu season in July one year. Typically the flu, around here, will peak in January/February."

She said she has seen it peak in December and even into March.

Frerking noted there didn't seem to be as many cases at this point last year as there have been this year.

The cases that have been reported are those that are lab diagnosed by hospitals and doctors. The common types of strands so far have been type A and B.

"So far this year, 4 out of 5 cases easily are A," she said. "There's more A this year than B so far. And there's no difference in symptoms, it's just how it types out."

Fitzgibbon Hospital reports that 80 percent of those tested at the emergency department have been positive for influenza A and 20 percent have been influenza B. The hospital has also seen several norovirus cases, an infection that can cause a severe case of vomiting and diarrhea, with symptoms lasting one to three days.

Frerking believes influenza is on its way to hit the peak season.

"It's definitely starting to ramp up," she said.

Influenza was widespread in Missouri for the week of Dec. 24-30, according to a report from the Department of Health and Senior Services. A total of 4,862 laboratory-positive cases came through. Of that number, 4,065 were influenza A, 744 influenza B and 53 cases were untyped.

In that same report, a season-to-date total of 17,182 laboratory-postitive cases were reported during week 52. Influenza A accounted for 13,951 (81 percent), 3,063 influenza B (18 percent) and 168 (1 percent) were untyped.

The Missouri State Public Health Laboratory reported eight positive cases. Six influenza A (H3), one influenza A (H1N1) and one influenza B (Yamagata). The report also states, during that same week, there have been nine deaths that were influenza-related.

Week 51 brought 25 pneumonia- and influenza-related deaths. These statistics were reported by the Bureau of Vital Records. The to-date total is 499.

Influenza has increased in the U.S. during week 52. The report stated there was one influenza-related pediatric death.

Other news from the report said that aside from Missouri, 25 other states and New York City experienced high activity of influenza-like illnesses (ILI).

Puerto Rico and nine states had moderate ILI activity. These states included Alaska, Colorado, Hawaii, Iowa, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Massachusetts, Tennessee and Wyoming.

The CDC also showed in its weekly U.S. Influenza Surveillance report, influenza was shown to be widespread in 46 states.

Even though the spread of the illness has picked up, it's not too late to get a flu shot. Frerking said there are still flu shots in the higher dosage for anyone 65 and older, as well as other dosages available. A flu shot can be given to a person six months and older.

She said once a person gets a flu shot, it takes a couple of weeks to develop full immunity.

"Not meaning you don't have some protection but as far as maximum protection, it takes your body a couple of weeks," she said.

Flu symptoms include sore throat, cough chest congestion, body aches, fever, headaches, and can last up to seven days.

Contact Kelly Melies at kmelies@marshallnews.com

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