SIKESTON -- It's official. The flu season has arrived in Sikeston.
"We've had five confirmed cases of the flu and have seen several other kids with classic flu symptoms," Sikeston pediatrician Kevin Blanton said.
So far the cases Blanton has seen were in children ranging in age from 3 to 11. He knows there have been adults who've had viral illnesses with flu-like symptoms but did not actually have influenza, he said.
Missouri Delta Medical Center registered nurse Joy Cauthorn, who is certified in infection control, said the hospital had its first positive flu case confirmed Tuesday.
"We have had a lot of colds, coughing and upper respiratory infections, but this was the first confirmed case of the season," Cauthorn said.
When the flu season officially arrives varies from year to year, Blanton said. "December is often when the flu season hits and often it's right around Christmas," Blanton said.
Typically, the flu starts in the southern states and works its way north, Blanton said. Right now there's lot of flu activity in Florida, Georgia and Mississippi, he said.
No flu cases had been reported in Missouri for the week ending Nov. 25 -- the most recent data available from Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
"I think it's just really started here, and we'll have to wait and see as far as if it's a small cluster or more widespread outbreak," Blanton said.
Spread from person to person through coughing or sneezing, the flu can cause fever, sore throat, chills, fatigue, cough, headache and muscle aches.
"Some people get much sicker. It can lead to pneumonia and can be dangerous for people with heart or breathing conditions," said registered nurse Karen Evans of the Scott County Health Department.
The flu can cause high fever and seizures in children, Evans said.
"The thing about the flu is when you get it, it only lasts a few days, but you're really, really sick," Evans said.
Flu cases in Sikeston are reported to the Scott County Health Department and Evans conducts surveillance.
Those who've already had a flu shot this season should be protected, Evans said.
"It's not too late to be vaccinated -- we'll be seeing flu cases through February and March," Blanton said.
It takes about two weeks before someone who is vaccinated develops immunity from the flu, Evans said.
"A lot of people think they will get sick if they get the flu shot, but they can't. It's an inactivated vaccine, which means it can't make you sick," Evans said. Flu shots are still available at local health departments and other healthcare providers. Shots are administered to children ages 6 months through adult.
Some medical researchers are targeting preschool-aged children, saying if their population received flu shots, it could slow down the spread of the flu, Blanton said.
And if a child or adult does come down with flu symptoms, it's important to have them seen by a physician within two days so they can still be candidate for Tamiflu -- the prescription flu medicine that attacks the influenza virus and stops it from spreading inside the body.