ST. LOUIS (KMOV.com) -- St Louis healthcare workers are preparing for the flu to hit what they call “epidemic” levels before the end of the December.
Healthcare professionals are taking it so seriously a new rule is in effect at Mercy Hospital.
All employees must get a flu shot by December 15. If they don’t, they will have to wear a mask while on their shift.
Emergency rooms around St. Louis are seeing nearly three times as many patients with flu-like symptoms compared to this time of year in 2011.
Doctors say the flu should be treated within 48 hours after symptoms as the carrier can still spread the flu up to a week after symptoms end.
A sign outside the Mercy Hospital gift shop tells visitors that flu shots are availalbe at the hospital pharmacy.
Parts of the United States are already reporting large numbers of cases, particularly in the South. There is a fear that people who travel to and from the South during the holidays will spread the flu bug to other parts of the country.
It takes about two weeks for a vaccination against influenza to provide full immunity in the body.
The Centers for Disease Control reports that Missouri has a “moderate” rating in the number of flu cases. Illinois currently has a “low” rating.
Mississippi and Alabama lead the nation with both states having a “high” rating.
Doctors caution that travel in general is a high risk proposition if patients have not been immunized.
“Put people in small spaces, such as airplanes, trains vehicles, where they might cough, sneeze, etc,” said Dr. Chris Cundiff of Mercy. “Those respiratory droplets can infect other people as well.”