By Rachel Lippmann
St. Louis – Nearly 500 people received treatment for the flu at clinics and hospitals in St. Louis County last month.
October 1st is the traditional start of the flu season, when hospitals and clinics begin tracking cases and submitting those numbers to the county health department. But the department started surveillance in September this year because of concerns about the H1N1 virus.
"And we already had 51 cases in that first week," said department spokesman Craig LeFebvre. "We're already up to a total of 495 cases for the season, which is about a third of the way there to what we see in an average season for the entire season." The County saw 1100 flu cases in 2008-2009.
The department believes most of the current flu cases are H1N1, LeFebvre said. And he said the number of total people infected with the flu is much higher - only people that seek treatment at hospitals and medical clinics are included in the surveillance.
"These numbers, while they're not the whole picture, are not necessarily driven by more people showing up at the clinics," he said. "If people are sick enough that they're showing up at a hospital and they're sick enough that they're testing positive, and they're being treated, that's real."