Ten more children have died of the flu nationwide, bringing the total number of youth fatalities to 63 since the season started on Oct. 1, according to federal health officials.
The newest weekly report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows the country is experiencing the highest rate of flu-like illnesses since the flu pandemic of 2009.
This season has also seen the highest flu hospitalization rate since 2010, according to a KSDK report. Federal officials are reporting that there were 17,101 confirmed influenza-associated hospitalizations between Oct. 1, 2017 and Feb. 3, 2018.
Officials also confirmed the flu is still considered widespread in Puerto Rico and 48 states, and they expect the number of flu cases to remain elevated.
A KMOX report found that 5.8 percent of the Illinois population and 6.4 percent of the Missouri population had flu-like symptoms.
“I want to recognize that this flu season has been hard on many so far,” acting CDC Director Dr. Anne Schuchat tweeted Friday afternoon. “We can’t predict how much longer this season will last. But if we stay vigilant and take steps to fight flu, we can reduce the risk of getting — and transmitting — it.”
Metro-east hospitals were limiting visitors and some were experiencing bed shortages with the number of influenza patients. In early December, an influenza outbreak caused Litchfield schools to close for two days as 23 percent of the students were out sick.
Medical professionals continue to urge all residents to get a flu shot, even at this point this late in the season. While it cannot guarantee protection from infection, it can reduce the severity of the illness and prevent further spread.
Experts also reminded people that they cannot get the flu from the flu shot.
People are also recommended to avoid crowds, wash hands often, avoid touching eyes, nose and mouth, clean and disinfect surfaces and maintain a healthy lifestyle.
If someone is infected, they should stay home, rest, drink fluids and avoid contact with others — especially the elderly and infants. Flu infection can continue up to 24 hours after the fever breaks without the help of a fever-reducing medication.