From staff reports
JOPLIN, Mo. —
Like the rest of the nation, Missouri is getting an early start on the winter flu season.
So far, a greater increase in flu cases is being reported in the east and southeast parts of the state, said Dan Pekarek, director of the Joplin Health Department.
“We’re a little ahead here, and statewide, we’re way ahead,” he said. “We’d certainly encourage people to get a flu shot, if they haven’t yet.”
Nationally, health officials said this week suspected flu cases have jumped in five Southern states, and the primary strain circulating tends to make people sicker than other types. It is particularly hard on the elderly.
The last time a conventional flu season started this early was the winter of 2003-04, which proved to be one of the most lethal seasons in the past 35 years, with more than 48,000 deaths. The dominant type of flu back then was the same one seen this year. Health officials say this year’s vaccine is a better match to the flu strain than nine years ago, and more of the vaccine is available.