ST. LOUIS — Flu cases are rising sharply in Missouri, with nine deaths reported so far this season at one St. Louis hospital alone.
All nine deaths at Barnes-Jewish Hospital involved people in their mid-20s to mid-60s, hospital officials said Friday. That's unusual because flu deaths are more typical among the very young and the very old. Another 35 patients were sick enough to be treated in the Barnes-Jewish intensive care unit.
Officially, Missouri has reported more than 6,700 confirmed flu cases this season. Most cases in Missouri involve the H1N1, or swine flu, strain. The Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services lumps influenza and pneumonia deaths together so the number of statewide flu deaths wasn't known.
Dr. Steven Lawrence, an infectious-disease specialist at Barnes-Jewish Hospital, said it isn't too late to get vaccinated.
"Most of the influenza patients we've seen who are sick enough to be hospitalized did not get vaccinated," Lawrence said in a statement. "The vaccine is very effective against H1N1 flu, particularly in the younger and middle-aged patients hit hardest by this strain."
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Friday that flu illnesses are widespread in at least 35 states. Flu usually peaks in January or February.