Flu vaccination could prove more important this year

Wednesday, January 9, 2013 | 5:46 p.m. CST

COLUMBIA — Like many other places in the U.S., Boone County had an early start to the flu season, recording a spike in early November 2012.

But those cases were mostly Influenza B. What could be coming next with the return of people from all over the world after winter break is an Influenza A2 strain, H3N2, and it's hitting some people hard — especially children and the elderly.

The good news is it's not too late to get vaccinated, and the vaccine this year is a good match for what's out there, said Genalee Alexander, public information officer for the Columbia/Boone County Departments of Public Health and Human Services.

"Overall, about 91 percent of the influenza viruses the CDC has seen at the lab match what's in this year's vaccine," she said.

Historically, Alexander said, it's college-age people who are the least likely to take the time to get vaccinated because they don't think it's any big deal to get the flu.

"And it might not be," Alexander said. "But if they give it to their 1-year-old niece or their grandmother, that could have a devastating effect. We want people to protect themselves, but we also want them to protect the community."

The Health Department ran out of adult flu mist Wednesday but had the mist for children, for whom — some studies suggest — it may be even more effective than a shot, Alexander said.

For people under 18, the mist and vaccine are free at the Health Department. Adults pay $25, and the high-dose vaccine for people over 65 is $30.

More information about the Health Department's flu clinic is on its website.

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