Springfield-Greene County Health Dept. reports record levels of influenza in November

Springfield-Greene County Health Dept. reports record levels of influenza in November

SPRINGFIELD, Mo. (Edited News Release/KY3) - The Springfield-Greene County Health Department has reported 1,035 cases in Greene County this flu season.

As of November 26, there have been 876 flu cases in November, making it the worst November for influenza within the last twenty years. The second-highest November during this period was in 2009, when 230 cases were reported.

“The flu is unpredictable,” says Kendra Findley, the Health Department’s Administrator for Communicable Disease. “We were able to anticipate that this season could start earlier and see more cases, but we can’t know if this is the peak or start of a historic surge in flu.”

Getting vaccinated is the best method available to protect yourself against the flu. People with insurance should contact their healthcare provider or a local pharmacy to make an appointment to get vaccinated. Uninsured or underinsured can visit a Health Department Outreach clinic this week to get their flu shot and stay up to date on their COVID-19 vaccine. A calendar and map of flu and COVID-19 vaccine opportunities are available at vaccine417.com or by calling 417-874-1211.

Additionally, the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services has free COVID-19, RSV, and Influenza A & B testing available Tuesdays from 10 a.m. - 6 p.m. at Teamsters Hall, 1850 E. Division St.

In addition to getting vaccinated against the flu and COVID-19 and tested when you’re sick, the Health Department is encouraging people to practice good hygiene. Simple things like washing your hands, coughing, and sneezing into an elbow or upper arm can help prevent the spread of viruses.

Health leaders urge you to stay home when you are sick. This includes keeping children home from school when they are showing symptoms of respiratory illness. Staying home will help prevent the spread of illnesses, reduce the impact on our healthcare systems and keep others safe this flu season.

RSV cases among children has already become an alarming problem nationwide but Dr. Howard Jarvis with CoxHealth said that the flu has also picked up among young ones recently.

“We’ve been running about 75-100 percent capacity in pediatric patients,” he pointed out. “And about 75 percent of our pediatric admissions are related to respiratory illnesses.”

Because of more respiratory problems among young people, both hospitals announced that they were making changes in their visiting policies.

“Those age 14-and-under will not be allowed to visit in the hospital,” Jarvis said.

“It’s because that group can be asymptomatic and spread it to our patients,” added Dr. Gregory Ledger of Mercy.

Both Springfield hospital representatives at the news briefing said staffing is not an issue right now but recommend that if you are feeling like you have the flu, you might consider other options besides the hospital.

“Reach out to your primary care physician first,” Ledger said. “Don’t automatically go to the emergency room because they tend to get very busy at this time of year.”

COVID-19 numbers in Greene County are up from 14 to 41 patients currently being hospitalized and although that still puts the area in the “Low” category as determined by the CDC, both local and national health officials are encouraging everyone to get shots for both COVID and the flu.

“I really believe this is why God gave us two arms,” said Dr. Ashish Jha, the White House Coronavirus Response Coordinator. “One for the flu shot and the other one for the COVID shot.”

“I would get the (COVID) booster and the flu shot the same day,” Ledger agreed. “One in each arm and I highly encourage everybody to get the shingles vaccine. I would separate that about two weeks after getting the COVID vaccine.”

And what about those who are wary about getting back-to-back shots because of arm soreness and side effects?