County Flu Numbers Far Worse Than Coronavirus

Judy Kramer
County Reporter
With all of the news about novel coronavirus infections, the fact that flu activity is currently high in Missouri is less noticeable. Missouri’s Department of Health and Senior Services (DHSS) reported that there were 8,498 laboratory-positive influenza cases in the state during the first week of February, and that influenza has remained high during the four weeks from about January 12 through February 8. At last count there have been 27 influenza-associated deaths in the state during this flu season.
Barb Schroder, Public Health Nurse at Benton County Health Department, said that Influenza cases are also much higher this year than last year.
“Last year there were 19,015 cases of influenza in Missouri with 22 deaths,” said Schroder. “So far this flu season, there have been 44,922 cases with 97 deaths. The majority of cases have been Influenza B. Since the flu shots are made a year in advance of a flu season, last year’s shot seemed to be better matched to the strain of influenza that occurred.
Schroder said that Benton County influenza cases that were reported by hospitals and doctor’s offices totaled 75 Influenza (B) cases’ and 21 Influenza (A) cases in January. So far, in February, there have been 64 influenza (B) cases, and nine influenza (A) cases reported.
Although a couple of school districts in Missouri, Bell City RII in Stoddard County, and Ripley County R-II in Gatewood, were closed from two to three days in early February because of the great percentage of absences, Benton County Schools seem to have the worst of the flu season behind them.
South School in Edwards, reports that only a few kids a week have had to be sent home for illness, and there have only been a couple of confirmed cases of influenza (B). The school nurse said that a lot of parents keep their children at home when they are ill, so it is unknown what kind of illness they may have had.
Warsaw High School and Middle School reported absences for flu and fever were few and steady. The school has made sure that doorknobs are cleaned often. 
Lincoln School District reported that the flu passed its students. There were as many as 70 students out before Christmas, and after Christmas that number was reduced to the 30s. On February 18, there were only five students absent.
 According to, the novel coronavirus, which began in China, is a global concern that has killed more than 1,775 people and infected more than 71,000. The Center for Disease Control is preparing for a widespread outbreak in the U.S. Another 99 cases were confirmed aboard the quarantined Diamond Princess Cruise Ship in Japan, and the U.S. evacuated 300 American citizens. About 14 Americans from that ship have been reported to have the virus.
Warsaw resident, Rickie Caswell, returned February 11 from a trip to Japan where she attended meetings related to her employment with Edward Jones. She said that she and other passengers were not checked for illness when they boarded the flight out of Tokyo, but that all of the Japanese people were wearing masks. 
Public Health Nurse Schroder said that no novel coronavirus cases have been reported in the county, and DHSS reports that there are no cases in Missouri at this time. Schroder said that symptoms for novel coronavirus are similar to those for flu. They include fever, cough, runny nose, sore throat and trouble breathing. The World Health Organization reports that there is presently no cure for coronavirus but scientists are working on a vaccine.
DHSS advised that the best way to prevent influenza is to get an influenza vaccine each year as soon as the vaccine is available to the public; wash hands and use alcohol-based hand sanitizers; cover your coughs and sneeze with a disposable tissue or your arm or sleeve; avoid touching your eyes, nose, or mouth; avoid close contact with persons who are sick; and stay home when you are sick. Most people who develop influenza will recover with bed rest and do not need medical care or flu antiviral medications.
A local senior citizen went in search of a senior version of this year’s flu shot on February 18, and was told by the Benton County Health Department and J&D Pharmacy that they were out of the vaccine.