Hospitals in the area of St. Louis are at capacity, and the number of flu cases continues to skyrocket
ST. LOUIS – Flu cases continue to rise across the St. Louis region. Louis, putting a lot of stress on hospitals that are already full or near capacity.
“It presents significant challenges to ensure we can care for everyone in the community,” a report by a St. Louis area hospital task force warned Wednesday. Louis.
While cases of respiratory syncytial virus which overwhelmed local hospitals in October fall, replaced by flu season that comes fast and furious.
At Barnes-Jewish Hospital in St. Louis, about 20 to 40 patients a day come to the emergency department with flu-like symptoms, and 10 to 20 must be admitted with the flu, said Dr. Robert Poiriera physician from the University of Washington who works as the clinical director of emergency services.
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“We’re seeing twice as many patients this week as last week, and last week it was also double” the previous week, Poirier said Wednesday. “We’re off to a great start this year.”
The challenge, Poirier said, is that the hospital is full along with the emergency department, which increases wait times and limits the ability to transfer patients to a higher level of care.
Many patients are also unable to move out of the hospital due to workforce challenges facing nursing homes, rehabilitation facilities and home health services.
“It supports the whole system,” he said.
The flu season so far appears to be the worst since 2010 and 2011. Flu cases usually start to spike in December and January, but this season we’re seeing an unusual spike in October and November.
During the week of November 19 latest available dataMissouri has reported nearly 4,900 laboratory-confirmed flu cases — nearly double the number from two weeks ago and already surpassing last year’s peak in late December.
So far this season through Nov. 19, Missouri has reported nearly 13,700 cases and three flu-related deaths, according to the state health department. Most cases of flu and hospital visits were recorded among children under 4 years of age.
Dr. Rachel Orschelspecialist in pediatric infectious diseases at the University of Washington at the Children’s Hospital of St. Louis, said doctors are already seeing a large number of children hospitalized with the flu.
“We are well above the peak of previous years for cases; and as far as hospitalizations are concerned, we are already slightly above the peak of previous years,” said Orscheln.
With no sign of cases easing, she said, “I imagine the level of hospitalizations will continue to rise.”
The increasing number of flu cases pushed Missouri into the “high” spread category at US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention flu map.
Nationwide, there were at least 6.2 million cases, 53,000 hospitalizations and 2,900 deaths from the flu, according to the CDC.
Hospital and public health leaders say they don’t know how high the numbers will rise. And while COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations have remained stable over the past few months, that could also change and strain hospital capacity.
During the week leading up to November 27, an average of 770 people per day were hospitalized with COVID-19 across Missouri, state data show. Over the past two months, about 20 to 50 Missourians have died from COVID-19 each week.
“Due to holiday gatherings and other indoor activities, we expect more cases of RSV, COVID-19 and other respiratory infections,” the St. Louis County Department of Public Health said. Louis in a warning issued Wednesday. “It is important that we do everything we can to prevent the spread of the disease.”
Doctors have urged everyone over the age of 6 months to get a flu shot, which works well against circulating strains, and to get an up-to-date vaccination against COVID-19.
COVID-19 vaccinations are offered weekdays at John C. Murphy Health Center in Berkeley, South County Health Center in Sunset Hills and North Central Community Health Center in Jennings from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Flu vaccines are available at three health centers from 8:30 a.m. to 10:30 a.m. and from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m.
Also, avoid trips to the emergency room, health officials say.
Those with mild to moderate cold-like symptoms can call their primary care physician, use telehealth services offered by insurance, or visit an urgent care.
A trip to the emergency room should be reserved for people with difficulty breathing, sudden dizziness, severe vomiting, dehydration, a high fever, or a temperature higher than 100.4 for infants younger than 8 weeks.
“We’re overwhelmed,” Poirier said, “and if you have mild symptoms, you’re going to wait a long time to be seen because we’re busy treating those who are sicker.”