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St. Louis region has seen late, mild flu season

A flu vaccine dose beside several needles.
Daniel Paquet | Flickr
Doctors say a better vaccine is partially responsible for the late and mild flu season in St. Louis this year.

The number of people getting the flu is on the way back down in the St. Louis region. It spiked slightly earlier this month.

The St. Louis County health department confirmed 207 cases of influenza this week, compared to 380 last week, and 295 the week before that. In St. Louis, the number of weekly flu cases peaked earlier this month just below 150.

Dr. Thomas Zink, a senior medical adviser for the city of St. Louis health department, said a spike in flu cases and emergency room visits in March is unusual, but not unheard of. Public health agencies regularly monitor seasonal flu outbreaks until mid-May.  

The March spike comes at the end of a late and mild flu season for the region. Flu cases barely registered in St. Louis and St. Louis County until January. Zink said a vaccine that more closely matched the types of flu circulating this year is partially responsible.

"Some have found that flu seasons are milder when the weather is less," he said "A well chosen vaccine can give us great hope and can help us anticipate a better season in terms of morbidity and mortality."

Scientists have already begun developing the vaccine for the next flu season, which generally starts in October.

"In terms of actually being able to pinpoint exactly, the virus is just such a clever and evolving one, we find ourselves oftentimes surprised and scratching our heads and wondering what next is in that bag of tricks," Zink said.

St. Louis and St. Louis County reported a high of about 500 flu cases during one week in mid-March; it’s since come down to about half of that.

Follow Durrie on Twitter: @durrieb

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