State health officials are cautiously optimistic that the worst of the flu season might be over.
The number of reported cases of the flu has begun to decline, according to the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services.
“We are hoping we are past the worst of it,” said Sue Denny of the Missouri Department for Health and Senior Services.
However, Denny said people should not become complacent about the flu “because it was an early outbreak, we could still get another peak through March.”
Columbia will be hit by a wave of students returning to MU next week, Stephens College and Columbia College are already back in session, and that could mean more cases of the flu. However, the MU Student Health Center’s director, Susan Even, said she doesn’t know what to expect when students come back from winter break, but she doubts the Student Health Center will see a resurgence of the number of flu cases they saw in November and December. Even says they saw more cases of the flu during November and December than they’ve seen in recent years.
The Columbia/Boone County Health Department has seen a decrease in laboratory-confirmed flu reports since the new year. The department received 602 reported cases from October through December and had 45 reported cases since the new year. That’s down from an average of about 40 cases per week to 22. Mary Martin, public health manager at the department, said the decline could be attributed to fewer people being tested for the flu.
University Hospital reports that there were six laboratory-confirmed cases of the flu during the first week of the new year, which is down from 50 to 60 cases per week in November and December.
The number of laboratory-confirmed cases per week of the flu state-wide reported to the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services was rising steadily since October and reached a peak of 3,413 during one week in mid-December. Since mid-December, weekly totals of reported cases of the flu have been declining. The last reported week, which ended Jan. 10, saw 1,527 cases of the flu.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report the same trend nationwide, although it lists Missouri as one of many states reporting widespread flu activity.
Missouri health officials are hoping for some relief from one of the worst influenza seasons the state has seen in years. The total number of cases reported thus far this flu season is more than double the number of confirmed cases last season. The Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services reports 11,656 cases of laboratory-confirmed cases of influenza in Missouri from the first of October to Jan. 3, as compared to the 4,318 cases of influenza reported during 2002-03.
Health officials continue to urge people who have not already been vaccinated to do so. But that might be difficult because of the shortage of flu vaccine. The Columbia/Boone County Health Department has FluMist, a nasal spray, available for people ages 5 to 49 with no medical risk. There is a small supply left for those in most serious need, but Martin said it is hard to get because companies have stopped making vaccine.
“It became a commodity that everybody wanted all of the sudden,” Martin said.