COLUMBIA — Columbia appears to be in the middle of its worst stretch so far this flu season, said Deidre Wood, public information specialist with the Columbia/Boone County Health Department.
To date, about 100 cases of the flu have been reported, Wood said. A little more than half of the 100, however, have been reported in the last week.
“It has dramatically increased,” Wood said.
To help control the rising number of cases, the Health Department will now offer the vaccination for free. Previously, it was charging $10. “We decided that it is towards the end of flu season, so we want to make sure we get enough vaccination to the public as possible,” Wood said.
Compared to last year, though, flu cases remain down by more than a third. Last year at this time, the department had received 152 cases, Wood said.
“There seems to be more of an effort from the community to be vaccinated,” Wood said. “I think the general education the public has about the flu has grown.”
Wood said she expects to see another increase in reported cases this week.
“It seems that a lot of people are going home and going to their physicians,” she said.
Along with being vaccinated, the Health Department recommends the following to decrease the chance of coming down with the flu: avoid close contact with people who are sick, stay home from work or school when sick, cover your mouth and nose when coughing or sneezing and wash your hands often.