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Number of flu cases remains high in St. Louis County

Rici Hoffarth | St. Louis Public Radio
The St. Louis Department of Public Health is urging residents to get the influenza vaccine after the number of flu cases remains high.

After a record number of influenza cases in St. Louis County in the last week of 2017, the numbers have dipped, but only slightly. 

The St. Louis County Department of Public Health reports 1,282 cases of influenza in the first week of January. That's compared to 1,304 in the last week of December, a record for the county.

Dr. Fredrick Echols, the director of the department’s Communicable Disease Control Services, said the specific cause for the increase in influenza cases is unknown. However, there are a couple of things that might be a contributing factor.

“If the significant percentage of this population hasn’t been vaccinated you have a greater number of individuals that are susceptible to influenza,” Echols said. “The other hypothesis could be that the vaccine wasn’t a good mesh this year.”

Even if the vaccine is not as effective for the current strain of the flu, Echols said people should still get it as a precaution.

“If someone is vaccinated and they encounter someone with influenza — unless the vaccine that they received isn’t a perfect match  — they still will have reduced symptoms as well as a potentially shortened course of the illness,” Echols said.

Of the cases reported the first week of the new year, county residents over the age of 65 had the highest number flu cases reported.

Since then, five outbreaks of the flu have been reported to the department. Four came from a long-term care facilities in the county and another was reported at a middle school.

While the flu vaccine is the recommended precautionary measure, Echols said county residents should wash their hands often, refrain from touching your eyes, mouth or nose and stay at home if they experience flu-like symptoms.

The vaccine is available at the county’s community health centers.

Follow Marissanne on Twitter: @marissanne2011

Marissanne is the afternoon newscaster at St. Louis Public Radio.