Public Safety : Warrensburg Police Dept.

Influenza cases down this year in Johnson County

Feb 16, 2009, 10:50 AM


An increase in immunizations is the likely result for healthy Johnson County residents. (Photo by Drew Woolery)

WARRENSBURG, Mo. -- There was a time at UCM when classroom absences were inevitable. Students did not oversleep or head home early for the weekend on those days. Instead, they bundled up in their warmest winter gear, and despite the chills, nausea and headaches, they headed to the University Health Center.

It wasn’t until four weeks after students had returned from winter break that Becky Streckel, assistant director of the health center at UCM, became concerned.

“Last year at this time we were really getting bombarded with the flu,” Streckel said. “January and February of 2008 were some of the worst cases we had seen in a while.”

Streckel said in previous years the university health center was mostly concerned with making sure the older faculty members had been vaccinated. This year, however, they wanted to ensure that every student had the opportunity to get a flu shot.

In October 2007, the health center ordered 800 vials of the influenza vaccination.

“We never even used all of the ones we had,” Steckel said. “But this year we ordered 900 because we needed to take a more active approach.”

Whether a student went to the clinic for a rash or contraception, each one was asked if he or she had received the flu shot. For those who hadn’t, immunization was encouraged, Streckel said.

By March of last year, the Center for Disease Control reported that all 50 states had only regional activity reports of influenza. More than 45 of those states even classified it as “widespread” activity. Three weeks into the flu season, only one state has consistently reported widespread activity – Virginia. New Jersey was added to the list shortly thereafter.

Mary Traver, director of public health for Johnson County Health Center, confirmed Streckel’s observation.

“Last year (at this time) we had over 100 people with the flu, maybe even 200,” Traver said.

Officials at the Johnson County Health Center also increased the amount of influenza immunizations they ordered this year. They planned for an increase based on the amount of advertising and news bulletins about the flu for residents in the community.

“We’re still not sure why we haven’t seen more cases this year,” Traver said. “They are still trying to figure that out on the state level.”

The Johnson County Health Department has immunized about 2,250 people this season.

Since flu season began in January, Missouri has ranked very low on the list of states where the infection has spread. Currently, it is categorized as only a sporadically increasing environment.

Nationally though, the number of people infected by the virus is increasing. In the last three weeks, there has been a 15 to 30 percent increase in positive tests among pediatrics.

In previous years many health officials have been concerned with the availability and effectiveness of the flu vaccine.

While the UCM Health Center has been able to overcome availability concerns, the effect of the vaccine is not something they can control. It wasn’t until February of last year’s flu season that the Center for Disease Control announced the year’s shots did not match the major types of the strain. While they said it still might help fight other illnesses, it would only lessen the severity of the current flu strains.

“Last year within the first four weeks after break we had 25 cases of the flu,” Streckel said. “We also had a lot of people with flu-like symptoms so it seemed much worse at the time.”

According to Streckel, there have been no reports of the flu on Central’s campus yet this season.

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