The Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services today announced the first laboratory-confirmed influenza case of the 2008-09 winter season.

Two cases of influenza B from eastern Missouri were recently confirmed by Missouri’s State Public Health Laboratory.

Though the department has received nearly 500 reportes of influenza from across the state, the first case to be confirmed by viral culture officially kicks off what the department considers flu season each year.

Spokesman Brian Quinn says everyone is urged to get a flu shot.

He says flu season typically peaks in late winter and continues into early spring.

The health department encourages common-sense health habits to ward off the flu and to prevent spreading the virus onto others: regularly washing hands with warm, soapy water, covering coughs and sneezes, eating well, getting enough sleep and exercise and staying home if feeling ill.

Although there is enough vaccine for everyone to get a flu shot, the department especially recommends high-risk groups get vaccinated:

– Children aged six months to 18 years.

– Adults 50 or older.

– Those with underlying chronic medical conditions.

– Women who are pregnant during flu season.

– Residents of nursing homes and long-term care facilities.

– Children on chronic aspirin therapy.

– All health care workers.

– Out-of-home caregivers and household contacts of persons at risk.

Brian Quinn, Department of Health [Download/listen MP3]