The influenza season has hit Monett early this year, according to officials at Cox Monett Hospital.
Denise Staponski, infection prevention nurse, reported having 10 confirmed cases so far this year, which is unusually early in the season for the area.
"This is an early onset flu season," Staponski said. "Last year, this area was hit in April which is typical for us."
So far this year, a total of 27 cases have been confirmed in Barry and Lawrence counties combined.
The most common strain in the area is influenza A, with 10 reported cases in Monett, followed by influenza B, of which two cases have been reported.
"The entire flu season runs from December through March," Staponski said. "The peak typically occurs between December and February."
Signs and symptoms of the flu, a contagious respiratory illness caused by a virus, include fever, chills, cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, and muscle or body aches.
Flu is primarily spread by droplets of saliva when people cough, sneeze or talk. The flu can be spread from one person to another before an individual feels ill.
"Prevention is the key," Staponski said. "It is important that people cover their mouths when they are coughing or sneezing, whether with tissue of the inside of their elbow, where the risk of contamination is not as great as from hand-to-hand contact. Good hand hygiene is essential."
There are those at greater risk for serious complications from the flu. Older people, young children, pregnant women and people suffering chronic health conditions such as asthma, diabetes or heart disease are at greater risk. People who reside in nursing homes or are confined to school or work environments where many people congregate are also at increased risk.
Roger Brock, administrator at the Barry County Health Department said people who have not yet received the vaccine should consider doing so.
"It's early for the flu this year," he said. "The flu spreads easily and can cause severe problems or even death."
Alethea Goodman, administrator for the Lawrence County Health Department, confirmed seven cases so far, and is urging area residents to be proactive in their prevention measures.
"We are seeing people in here every day getting flu shots," Goodman said. "We recommend people ages six months and older get the vaccine."
Once infected with the virus, there is little one can do other than ride out the uncomfortable side effects until they are fever free for at least 24 hours without the use of fever reducing medications such as Tylenol or Ibuprofen.
"We recommend people stay home from work or school until they are completely over the flu," Staponski said. "The best thing they can do is get plenty of rest, drink lots of fluids and take measures not to spread the illness further.
"Those having a severe bout of the flu may want to consider getting an antiviral shot, Tamiflu," Staponski said. "While it won't stop an individual from having the illness run its course, it can lessen the severity of the symptoms."
Flu shots this year are designed to protect against influenza A- H1N1; A-H3N2; and influenza B.
"People need to allow up to 14 days after getting a flu shot for it to be effective," Staponski said. "It takes that long for the antibodies to build up in the system."
Those with allergies to chicken eggs, have had severe reactions to flu shots in the past, or who has suffered Guillain-Barre Syndrome should not get the vaccination.
Flu shots are still available at both health departments and at Cox Monett Hospital. For more information, call Monett Professional Pharmacy, located at Cox Monett Hospital, at 417-354-1250; the Barry County Health Department at 417-847-2114; or the Lawrence County Health department at 417-466-2114.