The national flu epidemic is getting worse by the day.
At least three more states, including Montana, South Dakota and Arizona are now reporting widespread flu, bringing the total to 44 states. Mid-Missouri health officials said the flu is here, but the worst is yet to come.
Local doctors are running out of flu vaccine and predict the national epidemic should arrive in mid-Missouri within the next two weeks.
Local health care providers said they started seeing influenza B earlier than normal in September. That strain of the flu has about run its course.
Now, the more common influenza A is making people sick, but flu vaccines for both strains are hard to find in Columbia.
Providence Urgent Care Dr. Jason Zerrer said, â??Itâ??s really hard to come by in Columbia. A lot of people were proactive and got their flu shots early. I believe your health department is probably your best bet to get a flu shot right now. Most of the other folks are already out.â??
At this point, the Boone County Health Department has plenty of mist and injectable flu vaccines for children. They are getting low on injectable vaccines for adults and are completely out of adult flu mist, although they have more adult injectable flu vaccine on order and expect it to arrive next week.
Cole County health officials have about 40 doses left of injectable vaccines for adults, but no more FluMist for adults. Cole County health officials are not sure if theyâ??ll be getting any more shipments of the vaccines. Doctors said if you canâ??t find the vaccine, you can help prevent the flu by washing your hands, staying home from work when youâ??re sick and avoid touching your face.
Dr. Zerrer said, â??Itâ??s just really hard to stop during daytime activities. You end up touching your face several times. Keep your hands clean. Keep your hands away from your face. Thatâ??s really all you can do.â??
Health officials with Jefferson City, Columbia and Fulton schools said the flu is not a big problem with their teachers and students right now. Most of the students were sick during November and got healthier during their holiday vacation. Health officials said they hope we donâ??t see a repeat of November in January.
Officials with the Center for Disease Control said this yearâ??s vaccine is still very well-matched to the strains that are out there.
Even when the flu vaccine does not prevent the flu, it can still stop complications including pneumonia and even death.