(ST. JOSEPH, Mo.) There's no denying that flu season is upon us. The virus has now reached every corner of the nation, including St. Joseph.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said 49 states, all except Hawaii, have reported widespread flu activity.
"People tend to underestimate the flu, and especially this version of the virus tends to really make the very young and the very old very, very sick and can lead to death," Connie Werner, clinic nurse supervisor for St. Joseph Health Department, said.
So far during the 2017-2018 flu season, the CDC has reported 20 pediatric deaths.
A local pharmacist at Roger's Pharmacy, JulieMarie Nickelson, says the elderly and the young are most at stake when it comes to influenza.
"The five [years old] and under, and the two [years old] and under they're what's considered a high risk group," Nickelson said.
Locally Mosaic Life Care reported 344 confirmed flu cases in the St. Joe and Kansas City area, that number increasing from previous weeks.
Nickelson said the pharmacy has also seen an increase in the number of people coming in to buy flu medications.
"We have seen a very big upsurge with people coming in with the general flu complaints. That's congestion, just not feeling well...lot's of Tamiflu scripts," Nickelson said.
Several pharmacies nationwide have reported a shortage in some flu medications like Tamiflu and other over-the-counter or prescription medications.
"In a day sometimes we will run out of Tamiflu and not have enough for the next day," Nickelson said. "There are a couple medications, especially a couple prescription ones that are now on back order."
The CDC said the trend doesn't seem to be slowing down just yet, reporting a 5.8 percent increase of nationwide labratory confirmed influenza cases this week compared to last.
The total number of confirmed flu cases in the country is over 60,000.
"Each year it's unknown as to what that flu virus is going to be, which one is going to target the people that is going to make them ill. Each year it's different," Werner said.
Nickelson said the most prominent influenza virus this year is the H3N2 virus.
The CDC said the flu vaccine is only about 30 percent effective this year because the H3N2 virus tends to mutate rapidly.
"Though there is a strain of the H3N2 virus in the flu vaccine, a lot of the viruses that are all around have mutated too much for it to be quite as effective as it has been in the past," Nickelson said.
Nickelson still encouraged everyone to get their flu shots because it can help lower risks of getting a serious case of the virus.
Roger's Pharmacy said they're still providing the flu vaccination for anyone who hasn't already received the shot.
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