Influenza, the hardest hitting in several years, continues to take a toll on the area and the country.

Weekly national figures are scheduled to be released today. Local figures came out earlier this week and show that cases of the flu – just those reported and confirmed by lab tests – have already exceeded the totals for each of the last several seasons.

The Jackson County Health Department tracks cases outside Independence and Kansas City; those two cities track on their own. The county and Independence figures together provide a snapshot of what Eastern Jackson County is experiencing, nearly 7,000 cases through last weekend:

• In Independence, 1,173 cases had been reported through Feb. 16. That exceeds the season totals for each of the previous three winters. At this point last year, just 614 cases had been reported. This year, 78 percent of the cases have been diagnosed at Type A flu, and 20 percent as Type B. The numbers have been up and down in the last few weeks but may have peaked in mid-January.

• The Jackson County figures are 5,736 cases – again, reported and confirmed by a lab – through last Sunday. The county says that’s already 30 percent higher than any other flu season of the last 10 years. It appears that those cases may have peaked in early February. Type A has accounted for 68 percent of the cases, and Type B has accounted for 24 percent.

Local agencies have not been publicly reporting flu-related deaths, but the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services reports 136 deaths statewide through Feb. 10.

Health officials stress the flu is best controlled and prevented with frequent and thorough hand-washing, getting a flu shot – it’s not too late – and staying home if you have the fever or other symptoms.