SIKESTON -- As Missouri continues to experience record numbers of flu cases, several area residents are quickly becoming a part of the state statistic.
"We have had a lot of people in with the flu over the last three weeks," Tiffani Triplett receptionist in Urgent Care at Ferguson Medical Group. "We've just been swamped. About 97 percent of the people we're seeing have the flu."
Symptoms of patients include body aches, headaches, coughing, and they generally last a couple days to two weeks, Triplett said. Some are being prescribed antibiotics and Tamiflu, a popular prescription flu medicine, and other over-the-counter medicines, she explained.
"Everyone's told me that business has doubled this season," Triplett noted, adding that most of the employees have had their flu shots.
The Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services reported Tuesday that influenza continued to be widespread in the state. Spokeswoman Sue Denny said Missouri had 9,385 confirmed flu cases through Dec. 27, up from 7,355 on Dec. 23. This compares to a total of 4,318 cases during the entire 2002-2003 flu season.
The updated number of deaths related to the flu and pneumonia in Missouri was unavailable, Denny said. The total stood at 731 through Dec. 13, with three pediatric deaths. No additional pediatric deaths had been reported in the past week.
"One day we had 160 flu cases during an 8-hour shift," recalled an emergency room official with the Missouri Delta Medical Center on Friday. "We've been very busy and still are. All the phones are ringing off the hook, and we've got people waiting in lines all the time."
Of the 60 children who attend Pixyland Daycare in Sikeston, director Lisa Livingston said only half a dozen or so have contracted the illness that's claimed the lives of 42 children across the nation, according to the Center for Disease Control.
"It's not an outrageous amount. I've had several family members who have had some pretty bad cases of it, but none of the kids here," Livingston said.
Monique Thurman, director of Fun Time Daycare in East Prairie, said she hasn't had many children with the flu. "We may have had one or two, but most of the kids are having ear infections and strep throat, but not the flu," Thurman said.
Over at the Sikeston Convalescent Center, the flu hasn't bombarded the staff or residents either.
"There haven't been a whole lot of cases with residents. Some of the staff has been sick with it, but right now, we have no one who is. We just keep our fingers crossed," noted business officer Pat Kallemeier, adding that the majority of the 77 residents have had their flu shots along with most staff members.
But pharmacist Randy Ackman of Randy's Rx in Sikeston has noticed an increase in business since about two weeks after Thanksgiving. Ever since, he and his staff as well as other pharmacies in the area have been swamped.
"We've been very busy -- it's almost unprecedented," Ackman admitted. He contributes the combination of the holidays and staying in close quarters with communicating germs back and forth
The biggest problem pharmacies are having is the manufacturer of Tamiflu in the liquid state for children is in short supply nationwide, Ackman said.
"We're not able to get it (liquid Tamiflu) for children, but for adults, there's no shortage," Ackman said. Patients are resorting to other prescriptions and over-the-counter medicines to ease their symptoms, Ackman said.
And while pharmacists understand their flu customers are in a lot of pain, Ackman does have a favor to ask of them: "Please be patient with your particular pharmacy. Everyone is probably working at their maximum capacity so please be patient with us."