COLUMBIA – Influenza cases have more than doubled over last season, and continued outbreaks have prompted Boone Hospital Center to extend vaccinations through April.
To date, the hospital has seen 203 confirmed cases this season, compared to 78 in the 2011-2012 season and 51 in 2010-2011, according to a news release.
In March, the hospital has already seen 35 confirmed cases.
Boone Hospital usually provides vaccinations to at-risk groups through the end of March, but the number of flu diagnoses remains steady.
"We're still seeing new cases almost every day," said Brian Johnson with Boone Infectious Disease in a prepared statement.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than half of reported flu-associated hospitalizations have occurred in adults 65 and older as of mid-February.
The CDC also tracks data on vaccine effectiveness. To date, the center estimates that the current vaccination has protected 56 percent of the population from having to see a doctor for flu symptoms.
The influenza virus is a contagious respiratory illness, but it differs from a cold, according to the CDC. It comes on suddenly with symptoms that include fever or chills, cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, muscle or body aches, headaches and fatigue. Children may experience vomiting and diarrhea.
Columbia residents needing a flu vaccine should contact a physician or the Columbia/Boone County Public Health Department.
Supervising editor is Jeanne Abbott.