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It's Back! Flu Spreads (Again) In St. Louis

Judy Schmidt, James Gathany, U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
You still have time to get vaccinated against the seasonal flu.

It’s winter again in St. Louis ― and that means the start of flu season.

Dr. Faisal Khan with the St. Louis County Department of Health says he’s seen a sharp spike in the number of reported flu cases in the past couple of weeks.

He says that quick uptick is normal for this time of year, and it’s too soon to tell whether the current pattern will continue.

“The fact is that any flu season is a coin toss,” Khan said. “We don’t know how severe or how mild it’s going to be. And it’s only with the passage of time, once we see a pattern emerge ― and that’s usually toward the end of February ― that we can sort of retrospectively say, yeah, this has been a tough flu season. And it’s continuing well into March or April.”

Khan says the flu can be deadly, particularly for the very young, the elderly and people with other health problems.

But, he says, the flu can make even otherwise healthy people very sick, so everyone should get vaccinated – even if they’ve had the flu already.

And if you do get sick? "Stay away from work, stay at home, get some rest," Khan said. "If your children are sick, keep them away from school until they’ve recovered."

Khan says if your symptoms don't improve by resting, drinking fluids and taking over-the-counter fever reducers, you should see a doctor.

Dr. Hilary Babcock is an infectious disease specialist at Washington University in St. Louis and Barnes-Jewish Hospital. She says unlike a cold, which can start gradually, flu symptoms usually hit all at once.

“So if you can say at two o’clock yesterday I started feeling terrible, that’s more likely to be the flu than to be a cold,” Babcock said. “Most people with the flu have fevers and chills and aches, and it can really last for five to seven days before they start to feel better.”

Babcock says there are still flu vaccines available in our area, and that all the different options protect against this year’s most common flu strain.

Follow Véronique LaCapra on Twitter: @KWMUScience

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