The flu season is off to an early start this year, which has health department officials fearing a severe season or one that comes on strong particularly early.

According to the Missouri Department of Health, there were 1,545 cases of the flu reported in Missouri as of November. At the same time last year, there were just 379 cases reported.

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In a release sent by the health department, they said the numbers could mean the flu season come early for Missouri this year or that it could match the severe flu season that was seen in the southern hemisphere, where the flu season comes before ours.

The St. Louis Department of Health said there have been seven confirmed cases in the city since the season started in Oct. 1.

To keep you and your family healthy, the health department is asking people to get a flu shot and follow these steps:

  • Avoid close contact with sick people.
  • Wash your hands often with soap and water, especially after touching shared objects or surfaces such as doorknobs, light switches, remote controls, shopping counters, debit card readers, etc. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand rub.
  • Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze. Throw the tissue in the trash after you use it.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth.
  • Clean and disinfect commonly touched surfaces.
  • Stay home while you’re sick and limit contact with others to keep from infecting them.