CAPE GIRARDEAU COUNTY, MO (KFVS) - Months into the flu season two county health departments in southeast Missouri say that cases of influenza A and B are still staying strong.
While getting a flu shot is an essential first step to fighting off both strains of the illness, local nurses say that having a healthy immune system is essential continuing the battle.
Public health nurse Vanessa Presley at the Cape Girardeau County Public Health Center, said more than 1,650 people have contracted the virus there and that three adults have died from influenza in the area.
Mary Roth, a communicable disease nurse from Sainte Genevieve County Health Department, said there have been two flu-related deaths so far and that they've exceeded 600 reported cases, which is the largest they've recorded.
"It's been a heavier year with hospitalizations and deaths related to the flu," Roth said. "I think that Influenza A will continue. It looks like B is just starting on that rise and has not peaked yet, but we are still seeing it at a very elevated, widespread level."
Roth added that cold temperatures don't give a person the the flu, but that it can weaken your immune system and make you more susceptible to the illness.
"You don't want to get over chilled. You don't want to get overheated," Roth said. "Take care of your body because your immune system fights off a lot different infections that you are exposed to, that you maybe don't even know that you've been exposed to."
Bethany Harvel, a mother of four from the Jonesboro, IL area, said that her family takes a proactive health alternative approach to fighting off the flu.
"We make sure we're exercising, and taking our vitamins," Harvel said. "We take elderberry syrup. We wash our hands a lot. When we're out in public, or go to the shopping centers, we use the little wipes."
Harvel believes it's essential to teach generations coming up to take care of their personal health at a young age and to continue doing it year-round.
"Not only in flu season but during the summer and the fall," Harvel said. "It's important to keep it up because no one wants to get sick and you can be knocked out for days, even weeks. It's okay to rest and miss work occasionally. That might be hard, but it's better for yourself, and better for people in the community as a whole."
Common signs of the flu Roth said to look for include a fever over 101 degrees, body aches, a sore throat and a chest cough. She also said the medication Tamiflu can help reduce the severity of the illness and make you less contagious.
"Flu can be handled at home where you just need to rest, take good care of yourself and treat the symptoms," Roth said. "But especially if you're seeing any type of respiratory distress, anything like that, be sure to seek medical advice."
Roth also said that it's hard to predict how long the current flu season will last.
"It can last through April sometimes, but we're hoping that is not the case because it started early," she said.