As the season changes so does the focus of the Franklin County Health Department, which is readying for the unknowns which may present themselves during the 2019-20 flu season.
As of Friday, 34 cases had already been reported and health department staff have already given 384 flu vaccines.
Statewide, 96 new flu cases were reported last week, bringing the total to 538 cases already. At this time last year, 20 flu cases were reported in Franklin County and 809 flu cases had been reported in Missouri.
Public Health Supervisor Tony Buel explained there is no way to accurately predict the severity of the flu season each year, but urges residents to get flu shots early.
Most of the flu case numbers are reported to the county on Mondays by hospital emergency rooms in Washington and Sullivan and doctor’s offices when patients test positive for the influenza strain.
“Influenza activity is low in Franklin County but the season does appear to be approaching,” Buel said. “The break-down is currently eight influenza A cases and 26 influenza B cases. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) is still stating that everyone 6 months and older should receive a yearly flu vaccine.”
Less Last Year
After two record-breaking flu seasons in 2016 and 2017, flu cases last year were much lower but still concerning.
As of May 2019, which is the unofficial end of the season, the flu cases in Franklin County totaled 1,733 with an average of 57 cases each week beginning in mid-September.
The hardest hit age group was children ages 5 to 14 with 574 cases, making up one-third of the overall county totals.
The second highest number of cases was in adults ages 25 to 49. That group reported 317 cases and made up 18 percent of the season total.
Older adults ages 50 to 64 recorded 13 percent of the county totals with 238 cases last season.
There were 190 cases in children ages 2 to 4, making up 11 percent, and 169 cases in seniors ages 65 and up, comprising just under 10 percent.
There were 143 flu cases reported in the 15 to 24 age range, making up 8 percent of the county’s totals.
The lowest number of flu cases of any age range was children ages zero to 2 with 102 cases rounding out slightly under 6 percent for the season.
The peak of the flu season last year came between Feb. 17 and St. Patrick’s Day in March with about half of the overall cases coming in that four-week period.
Influenza A was the dominant strain in Franklin County this season, comprising 1,629 cases, with Influenza B contributing an additional 104 cases.
Worst on Record
The county flu totals in the 2017 season were the worst in recorded history with 2,909 people suffering from the virus.
The highest week of reported cases came as 2017 closed out the week of Dec. 31, with 401.
Statewide by the end of May 2018 there were 133,957 laboratory-positive influenza cases.
Because of the huge flu outbreaks, some private medical facilities ran out of the flu vaccines late in the season.
Buel urges residents to get flu shots early again this year and the county health department will be providing them.
The county prebooks its flu order very early in the year in order to have enough doses available to order.
The amount of vaccine ordered by the county is based off of what was used the year before and typically there is no issue with running out of vaccine.
There are many different flu viruses and they are constantly changing. The composition of U.S. flu vaccines is reviewed annually and updated as needed to match circulating flu viruses.
Flu vaccines protect against the three or four viruses (depending on vaccine) that research suggests will be most common.
A flu immunization stays in the patient’s system for approximately one year.