Reports of influenza in Phelps and Maries counties have been going up over the last several weeks, according to surveillance from the Phelps-Maries County Health Department.
Jodi Waltman, director of the health department, noted the increase during a meeting of county officials Dec. 27.
“We’ve seen an increase of flu in our area and hospitalizations,” Waltman said, noting that she has heard of more people coming down with the flu and getting sick and admitted at Phelps County Regional Medical Center or going to the Mercy clinic in Rolla.
Waltman told The Rolla Daily News after the meeting that the health department receives weekly reports through surveillance at a clinic in Vienna in Maries County as well as the PCRMC emergency room and two urgent-care centers in Rolla.
“With surveillance, we get an idea of what the trends are,” she said, noting that the surveillance reports mean that a doctor is saying a patient has flu-like symptoms but there has been no confirmation from lab results.
Waltman said in the last four weeks, the number of reports from these sites have gone from about two to four per week to as many as 12 to 20 per week.
Because not all people may visit a doctor when they are sick or report it, Waltman said the reports received are “just the tip of the iceberg.”
“The flu is very contagious and now that we have cold weather, people are spending more time in enclosed spaces,” Waltman said.
Besides flu shots, Waltman said the best way to prevent the spread of the flu is good hand washing. The flu virus lives on surfaces of all kinds — from door knobs to keyboards — for several hours, according to Waltman.
“And while nobody likes to use up their sick leave, if you have a fever, you shouldn’t go to work,” she said.
The Phelps-Maries County Health Department still has the flu vaccine available. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recommends that everyone 6 months of age or older be vaccinated against the flu.
This year the health department is offering FluMist, a nasal spray vaccine for healthy people who are 2 to 49 years of age and who are not pregnant. Additionally, a preservative-free adult and pediatric injectable including adult high-dose injectable for people 65 years and older will be offered.
The Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services Vaccine for Children Program (VFC) provides injectable flu vaccine for children age 6 months to 18 years, and FluMist for healthy 2- to 18-year-olds, who are eligible for Medicaid or who are uninsured. There is a $10 administration fee for uninsured children.
New this year is the FluZone interdermal flu vaccination, which is given with a tiny needle that is 90 percent smaller than the needles regularly used.
Page 2 of 2 - The cost for the vaccination is $30 for FluMist or the adult/pediatric injectable and interdermal and $45 for adult high-dose.
Accepted methods of payment are cash, check or MasterCard or Discover credit or debit cards.
Types of insurance accepted include Aetna, Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield (except for Medicare Advantage), Cigna, Coventry, Humana, Medicare B, Medicare Railroad, United Healthcare and United Mine Workers of America.
The Phelps-Maries County Health Department, located on the ground floor of the Phelps County Courthouse, 200 N. Main St., Rolla, is open from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Mondays through Fridays and no appointments are needed. For more information, call the health department at 573-458-6010.