Flu numbers are quickly on the rise as local and national health experts work to get cases under control. An estimated 14,000 flu deaths have occurred this season including 92 pediatric mortalities. The most recent numbers reflect Week 7 of the 2020 calendar year (Feb. 9-15).
56 Flu Deaths Reported in the Four States Alone
The CDC reports an average of 10 percent of Four State emergency room visits are for influenza-like illness (ILI). Numbers also show 157 flu-related deaths have been reported for the 2019-20 season so far.
Arkansas tops the Four States with a commanding 56 flu deaths out of more than 24,000 positive cases so far. Seven facilities including five nursing homes have reported flu outbreaks to the state health department.
In Oklahoma, 1970 cases resulted in hospitalization. 240 alone came from Feb. 9-15. Three deaths have been reported in the Northeast Oklahoma region, completing the state’s combined total of 36.
The Kansas Department of Health also reports a total of 36 deaths in the state. 22 outbreaks and three school closures due to widespread illness have been reported to KDHE as of February 15.
Missouri numbers show a death toll of 29. Out of almost 56,000 total cases, more than 5,000 have been confirmed in Southwest Missouri – including Jasper, Newton, and Greene Counties.
Southwest Missouri saw 416 new cases in Week 7, adding to the state’s combined total of 7,624 for the week. 118 came from Jasper County alone with Lawrence and Vernon Counties trailing shortly behind with totals of 104 and 100.
But, some Southwest Missouri counties barely added to the weekly numbers. Barton County only had seven confirmed cases, McDonald County reported three, and Greene County had one.
Newton County did not report any new cases in Week 7.
Rene Bohns, an RN with the Newton County Health Department, says there are a number of ways to prevent catching the virus. It starts with frequent handwashing and avoiding contact with the face.
“A lot of people have nervous habits where they are constantly twitching their nose touching their face or rubbing their eyes—really, things we don’t even think about.”
According to Bohns, one of the easiest ways for an infection to enter the body is through the eyes’ mucous membranes.
Once contracted, the flu can be very difficult to fight off – especially for patients with underlying medical conditions.
“People that have chronic asthma, emphysema, or even diabetes – any kind of illness that can diminish their immune system or their lung capacity. They can just get a lot sicker so just they may not be able to clear that virus as it attacks their lungs a little bit worse than what some people can fight off.”
Lung health is crucial to fighting off respiratory illnesses including the flu and even pneumonia.
Patients who use nicotine products can also be at a higher risk of contracting the disease. This includes cigarettes, e-cigarettes, and vaping products.
“Right now, we really don’t know each substance people use for vaping because it’s not really regulated. We don’t know how much damage each different substance can cause damage to the lungs,” said Bohns. “Anytime you inhale any kind of substance into your lungs, that’s still doing something to that lung tissue.”
Although flu case numbers continue to climb, prevention is still possible. Health experts recommend getting the flu vaccine before the season starts as the vaccine takes about two weeks to go into full effect.
The vaccine helps prevent exposure to the patient along with everyone they come into contact with.
“We don’t really know when the flu is going to hit – we usually have a good average time frame we give. But we can have a flu season that can last into March, April and so as long as you get that flu shot, it can help protect you.”
Those with the highest risk of catching the illness are children under the age of four and adults over the age of 65. High dose flu vaccines are available for seniors.
The Newton County Health Department offers flu shots for $20, but also participates in the Missouri Vaccines for Children (VFC) program that offers low-cost vaccines for kids.
“We will usually charge maybe a $5 administration fee, but even if they can’t afford that then we don’t charge anything.”
While it is unknown what is to yet come of the remainder of the 2019-20 flu season, federal, state, and local health experts are continuing the push for awareness of flu prevention and treatment. Week 8 information will be released later this week on the CDC’s Influenza Division website.