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Flu Season Hits Missouri



February 13, 2012

KANSAS CITY, Mo. - If it seems as though everyone around you is sick, you may be right.

Influenza season has picked up steam in the last three weeks in Missouri, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It's definitely getting worse, says infectious disease specialist Dr. Chris Harrison, director of the Pediatrics Disease Laboratory at Children's Mercy Hospital and Clinics. If you haven't been sick yet, he says, you might consider getting yourself and your children vaccinated.

"For children, we know that the nasal drop vaccine is maybe 10 to 15 percent more effective than the shot, which also might make the kids happy, too, if they don't have to take a shot."

The flu bug lives on surfaces, Harrison says, so it's important to wash hands frequently. Sometimes parents get tired of reminding children to keep their hands away from their faces, he says, and we all tend to rub our eyes from time to time, which can give flu bugs a big advantage.

"We know that the virus more easily infects you if it gets into your lining of your eye, than in your nose or your mouth."

Harrison says people with asthma or chronic illness, and children under age 1 may want to visit a doctor at the first sign of flu to get an antiviral, which can prevent complications.

"It helps shorten the course by at least a day, and for children it may be up to three days. But if you wait too late, then the virus has already done enough injury to your linings that starting the antiviral doesn't help that much."

Flu doesn't respond to antibiotics, but Harrison says some cases get complicated and a doctor may need to prescribe some. For example, he says, you feel like you got hit by the flu really hard, you get better for a day, and then you're down again.

"And then it comes back on you, just as bad or worse. That second wave is generally not influenza. It's a bacteria taking advantage of your respiratory track being all beat up by influenza."

How do you know if it's flu or just a cold? Harrison says if it comes on suddenly and feverishly, it's probably flu.

Flu season is peaking now, Harrison says, and could stick around through March. Vaccinations aren't recommended for people who have had a reaction in the past, or have certain allergies. He says healthy people can usually recover from flu on their own.

More information is online at cdc.gov.

Mary Anne Meyers, Public News Service - MO