Health officials saw a spike in flu cases this month as the weather slowly grew colder.
There were 237 flu cases reported Oct. 1-Dec. 23 in Cole County, said Jaime Young, registered nurse and communicable disease coordinator for the Cole County Health Department. Only 37 of those flu cases had been reported as of Dec. 2.
Figures from the state health department for other Mid-Missouri counties, season-to-date as of Dec. 23, show 240 flu cases reported in Boone County, 129 in Miller County, 21 in Callaway County, 17 in Moniteau County and one in Osage County.
There have been 8,458 total influenza cases in Missouri as of Dec. 23, according to the state Department of Health and Senior Services, compared to only 1,157 at the same time last year.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control classified Missouri as one of 23 states experiencing widespread influenza activity during the week ending Dec. 16, with surrounding states Illinois, Kentucky, Arkansas and Oklahoma also on that list.
Young said the current strains health officials are seeing are included in this year's flu vaccination, and so far the flu vaccine has been effective. She said strains can change through the season, though.
Compared to the previous five flu seasons in Cole County, this year mirrors the 2014-15 flu season, which peaked in late December, Young said.
There were more than 70,000 confirmed influenza cases in Missouri during the 2016-17 flu season, the state health department said.
Young said the most important prevention technique against the flu is to get a flu shot.
"It's not too late to get your flu vaccine if you have not done so already," Young said this month. "We also continue to emphasize washing your hands often with soap and water and, if that's not available, use alcohol-based hand rub. Try to avoid close contact with sick people. If you do become sick with a flu-like illness, stay home for at least 24 hours after your fever is gone except to get medical care or for other necessities."