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Flu epidemic makes little impact on area

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Influenza activity continues to increase in the United States, and most of the country is now experiencing high levels of influenza-like-illness, according to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's (CDC) latest FluView report. Barry and Lawrence counties have not seen the extent of flu cases that have been documented in other areas.

"We are seeing both Influenza A and Influenza B in our community," said Denise Staponski, infection prevention registered nurse with Cox Monett Hospital. "We are not seeing the cases to the degree that other surrounding counties have reported."

A total of 75 confirmed cases of influenza have been recorded in Barry County with the first cases seen in mid-November 2012.

Lawrence County has recorded 23 confirmed cases of influenza.

Cox Monett Hospital has reported 30 confirmed cases of influenza in both counties. The first case was seen on Nov. 17, 2012.

"Influenza A numbers are higher. The flu vaccine covers both strains," said Staponski.

The flu vaccine is being offered to admitted patients at Cox Monett Hospital.

According to Staponski, there is enough flu vaccine to keep up the vaccine program but not to offer another clinic to the public.

People who have not received the vaccine can avoid the flu by:

* Staying home if they are ill.

* Avoiding large crowds through the flu season, which generally ends in March or April.

* Following cough etiquette that includes covering their cough with their sleeve or a Kleenex and disposing of that tissue immediately after use. Good hand hygiene is also essential.

Influenza has not had a big impact on area schools.

"Flu has not had much of an effect district-wide in Monett," said Brad Hanson, Monett superintendent. "We are averaging a 95 to 96 percent attendance. Before Christmas, absences were a little higher but not anything significant."

According to Aaron Cornman, Pierce City superintendent, the R-6 District has had minimal flu cases.

"We have had several children with the stomach flu," said Cornman. "But the flu seems to have died down after the holidays. Students must be fever-free for 24 hours to return to classes."

Margaret Kleiboeker, nurse at the Verona School District, stated that Verona has not been hit hard at all.

"We have been very lucky," said Kleiboeker.

Influenza has had a slight impact on Purdy Schools.

"Although influenza and various other illnesses have visited the staff and students of the Purdy R-2 School District, the impact of sickness on student attendance has been minimal thus far," said Dr. Steven Chancellor, superintendent.

"I credit the efforts of our staff members, particularly district nurse Sarai Salazar, with limiting the spread of illnesses among students and staff," Chancellor continued. "Through posters, e-mails and other forms of instruction, Salazar has encouraged vigilant handwashing, hygiene and personal care. The custodial staff has also taken extra preventive measures in facility sanitation."

Chancellor encouraged continued attention to illness prevention.

"I encourage parents to continue our flu-prevention education measures with their children at home," said Chancellor. "Parents should keep their children home from school if they experience flu-like symptoms, such as fever, vomiting, diarrhea, sore throat or severe coughing and congestion. As per our board policy, students must be fever-free for 24 hours without medication before returning to school."

According to Carol Landstad, registered nurse at the Barry County Health Department in Cassville, there are fewer cases of flu now. Those hit hardest by the flu seem to be teens and young adults.

"We don't see many elderly with the flu, because most of them do get a flu shot," said Landstad.

The Barry County Health Department has a limited supply of the vaccine and is close to being depleted.

According to Alethea Goodman, administrator at the Lawrence County Health Department, Lawrence County has had seven lab-confirmed cases of the flu. The health department has 50 doses of the adult vaccine and 50 doses of children's vaccine left.

"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 have suffered Guillain-Barre Syndrome should not get the vaccination.

For more information, call the Barry County Health Department at 417-847-2114 or the Lawrence County Health Department at 417-466-2114.

Local pharmacies are another place where area residents can access the flu vaccine.

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