COLUMBIA — Influenza activity in the U.S. often peaks in January and February, and the Health Department is urging people to get vaccinated before then.
"It's unpredictable. We never know how many people it is going to affect," said Genalee Alexander, spokeswoman of the Public Health and Human Services Department.
The Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services reported "no activity" to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for the week ending in Dec. 24, according to the Missouri Weekly Influenza Report. No activity status means there is low influenza activity and no lab-confirmed cases.
Alexander said getting the vaccination now will still help protect people when flu activity begins to pick up.
The 2011-12 seasonal influenza vaccine guards against the H1N1 virus, the H3N2 virus and an influenza B virus, according to the CDC's website.
Alexander said this year's vaccine protects against the same influenza viruses as last year's vaccine. She said it is still important to be vaccinated annually for a higher defense against the virus because protection only lasts about nine months.
"The vaccine is our best protection from the flu," Alexander said.
She said there are many other locations in Columbia that offer the flu vaccine and encourages everyone to get the vaccine.
Influenza is spread by coughing, sneezing and talking. Symptoms of influenza include fever or chills, a cough, sore throat, muscle or body aches, headaches and fatigue.
Children from 6 months old to 18 years old can receive a flu shot or the FluMist nasal spray vaccine free this season at the Health Department as the result of a grant from the David B. Lichtenstein Foundation.
The department used the grant money in the fall to vaccinate children K-5 across Boone County. They visited 37 schools in Boone County, including all public schools and most private schools, and vaccinated 4,638 children, according to Alexander.
Alexander said there was a great response when they went to the elementary schools. She said when parents realized their children's vaccination was free and that they saved money, they often got the shot themselves.
"If we can lower the incidence of flu in the kids, then we can lower the incidence of flu in the community," Alexander said.
For adults 19 and older flu shots cost $25 and FluMist costs $30. The department does not offer the Fluzone High-Dose vaccine, designed for people 65 and older, or a new intradermal vaccine offered for the first time this 2011-12 flu season.
Flu shots and FluMist nasal spray vaccines are available from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., Monday through Friday, at the Columbia/Boone County Department of Public Health and Human Services, 1005 W. Worley St.