The first case of influenza was recently reported by the Columbia/Boone County Department of Health, but Mary Martin, public health manager for the department, said that doesn’t mean there haven’t been more cases.
“Most people that get influenza aren’t tested,” Martin said. “If people get the flu, they usually stay home and don’t go to the doctor.”
Martin said that it’s not too late to get a flu shot this year.
“Every year we get people all through December and into January,” Martin said. “We vaccinate until we run out of doses.”
The health department is offering flu shots to children and adults for $10, and for the first time in Columbia, children under the age of 13 are not required to bring a written prescription from their physician to get the shot.
“This is a barrier that has been removed to make it easier for parents to get their children vaccinated,” Martin said.
Martin said the health department has bought more children’s vaccines this year because of new standards for high-risk individuals released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Young children ages 6 months to 2 years have been added to the list of high-risk individuals because of the higher likelihood of hospitalization after catching the flu, Martin said.
Other high-risk groups listed by the CDC are: individuals over the age of 50; people with a history of heart, kidney and lung problems, including asthma; children on chronic aspirin therapy; people on long-term steroid therapy; people with immune system problems; people with diabetes; and pregnant women who will be in their second or third trimester during flu season.
Martin is encouraging people to get a flu shot as soon as possible.
“Some people wait until they see people getting sick and then they get it, but just remember that it takes two weeks after the shot to have immunity,” Martin said.