More than 11,100 cases of influenza have been reported in Missouri so far, and there have 11 deaths related to flu this season.
Nationally, flu activity remains high and forecasts from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) suggest that it will remain elevated for several more weeks.
As of Jan. 10, 32 pediatric deaths have occurred throughout the country this season, according to the CDC. Influenza B viruses have been reported more frequently than other influenza viruses. This type can cause severe illness in people of all ages, including children.
"Flu vaccination remains the best way to prevent the flu and its potentially serious complications. Not only can it prevent flu, it has also been shown in several studies to reduce the severity of illness in vaccinated people who still get sick," a Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services release states.
A CDC study, which looked at data from four flu seasons between 2010 and 2014, found that flu vaccination reduced the risk of flu-associated death by 51% among children with underlying high-risk medical conditions and by 65% among healthy children.
“The high level of activity nationwide is concerning,” said Randall Williams, director of the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services. “While we have not yet experienced the level of flu activity of all of our neighboring states, the traditional peak time of the season is still forthcoming. Now is the time to protect yourself and your children with a flu shot. It’s not too late. We’re also encouraging antiviral medication for people at high risk for flu complications, including children under age 2, as it can reduce morbidity and mortality.”
According to the state health department, those over the age of 6 months are encouraged to be vaccinated. Pregnant women are also highly encouraged to receive the vaccination in order to protect the baby after birth and before it is old enough to receive its own vaccination as antibodies can be passed onto the developing baby during the mother’s pregnancy.
For more information or to find a flu vaccine location near you, visit health.mo.gov/flu.