(KMOV.com) -- Nine patients ranging in age from mid-20s to mid-60s have died from complications related to the flu at Barnes-Jewish Hospital, according to the hospital.
It comes as a rash of new flu cases sweep the area. Barnes-Jewish is diagnosing the flu with an average of 10 to 12 new cases daily and has treated about 35 patients with severe flu illness in the hospital's intensive care unit.
“We have seen a steep rise in flu cases, and we’re treating some very, very sick patients from the St. Louis area and others who have been transferred here from hospitals in the region,” said Steven Lawrence, MD, a Washington University infectious disease specialist at Barnes-Jewish.
The H1N1 strain of the flu is disproportionately affecting younger patients. Doctors say many young adults are simply not getting the flu shot.
“They’re not seeing doctors, they’re not going to hospitals, they’re not connected to the health care system, they don’t have insurance,” said Dr. Hilary Babcock of Barnes-Jewish Hospital.
Statistics from the St. Louis County Health Department show flu cases among 20-34 year olds are outpacing every other age group except infants.
“We’re seeing a lot of very, very sick young adults who are admitted to the hospital and the intensive care unit,” said Dr. Babcock.
Because of the severity of the flu this year, doctors are urging people to get the influenza vaccine if they have not already done so. Washington University physicians say the flu season has not yet peaked, and the H1N1 influenza virus could spread for at least another month.
"It is not too late to get the flu shot," Lawrence said. "Most of the influenza patients we've seen who are sick enough to be hospitalized did not get vaccinated."
In addition to contacting medical providers for treatment advice, Lawrence also cautions that people with the flu should get plenty of rest and stay home for at least 24 hours after their temperature returns to normal, to avoid spreading flu to others.