SAINT LOUIS COUNTY, MO - (January 10, 2013) The Saint Louis County Department of Health is strongly advising that all residents be vaccinated against the seasonal flu. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, most of the country is now experiencing high levels of influenza-like illness and the Saint Louis area is no exception. The health department has reported 1,464 cases so far this flu season compared to 1,446 for all of 2011-2012 flu season.
"While the severity of this flu season remains unpredictable, we know that an increasing number of people are getting sick with the flu and we are getting reports of severe illness and hospitalizations," said Dr. Dolores J. Gunn, director of the department.
She emphasized the importance of vaccination. "It's not just about protecting yourself. If you don't catch the flu, then you can't spread it to others," she added.
In Saint Louis County, the predominant strain this year has been influenza B, unlike most years when influenza A is more common. The symptoms of influenza B can sometimes be worse than those of influenza A.
The flu vaccine provides protection against both strains. In fact, it offers protection against three different flu types, based on recommendations from experts around the world who determine each year which types are most likely to be in circulation.
Residents still needing a seasonal flu vaccine can visit the Saint Louis County Department of Health's flu website to find out where they can be vaccinated:
Between 15 and 60 million Americans are infected by seasonal flu each flu season, depending on the severity of the outbreak. Over 200,000 people are hospitalized every year due to flu-related complications and around 36,000 of them die.
Other standard precautions being urged by the County Health Department are:
* Wash your hands frequently with soap and water.
* Cough and sneeze into a tissue or into your sleeve.
* Avoid touching your eyes, nose,
* Try to maintain a distance of
three feet between you and others.
* Stay home when you are sick or
think you may be getting sick.