As clocks spring forward this weekend, the end of the 2018-19 flu season gets even closer.
With about a month left in the official reporting window, new cases in Franklin County have dropped dramatically to the lowest levels since Christmas.
Despite the total number of cases reaching 1,111 last week, only 21 new cases were reported compared to the 143 cases the week before.
Mid-February marked consecutive weeks of 294 and 220 cases each.
Public Health Supervisor Tony Buel says he’s cautiously optimistic about the recent reductions in cases.
“It appears we are starting to go back down, which is great news,” he said. “However, last week, counties bordering us reported slight increases in flu cases still.”
Despite flu numbers at a fraction of last year’s totals, the hardest hit group this year has been school-age children, ages 5 to 14.
Thus far, there have been 366 cases reported in that age group, making up about 33 percent of the overall county totals.
This demographic makes sense considering how the flu can be easily spread in close quarters like a school, officials said.
Children ages 0 to 4 also have been hit hard by the flu this season with their combined totals of cases reaching 191, making up more than 17 percent of the county cases.
In the four adult categories ranging in ages from 15 to 65-plus, the 25 to 49 age group has seen the highest number of flu cases with 211, which overall is the next highest to school-age children.
This age group constituted 19 percent of the overall cases in the county.
There have been 156 flu cases in adults ages 50 to 64 and an additional 90 cases in persons age 65 and up. These two age groups make up 22 percent of the overall count totals.
Older teens and young adults, ages 15 to 24, reported 97 cases, representing less than 9 percent of the county totals.
Last season flu cases reached near epidemic numbers both statewide and nationwide, with record-breaking numbers of nearly 3,000 posted in Franklin County.
This season, the virus crept into the county slowly with weekly reports during the fall months trickling in with single digits.
In fact, the first week with more than five reported cases wasn’t until the end of October.
The first weeks with double-digit cases reported were in mid-December with a dozen each and it wasn’t until after the holidays that the weekly cases reached over 50.
The first week cases didn’t reach over 100 until early February and cases promptly dropped below the century mark the following week before a resurgence.
Valentine’s Day set the high-water mark for new flu cases, with 284 reported that week and 220 the following week, before a drop to 143 new cases the first week of March.
Influenza type A has been the main culprit this season with 1,046 cases. Only 65 of the Franklin County cases have been influenza type B.
According to the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services, as of March 3, there were 5,173 new influenza cases reported statewide.
That brings the season total to 40,327 across Missouri since October.
There have been 24 influenza-associated deaths reported in Missouri this season.
Last year at this time, there were fewer new cases reported at 3,117, but the season-to-date total as of March 3, 2018, was 119,071 cases statewide.
There also had been 190 flu-related deaths in the state.