Missouri struggles to deal with more than 40,000 flu cases amid epidemic

Flu epidemic
Flu epidemic 02:09

ST. LOUIS -- The flu continues to run rampant, and it's widespread in every state but Hawaii. But the hardest hit state may be Missouri. There are more than 40,000 cases so far this year, compared to just over 6,000 at this time last year.

Chloe Tennant came to Total Access Urgent Care in St. Louis complaining of flu-like symptoms. Fifteen minutes later, after a battery of tests, Dr. Paul Hinrichs delivered the bad news. Tennant had the flu.

It's a common diagnosis these days across Missouri and across the country.

"I've been doing this a long time and I have never seen such a high concentration of flu cases all at one time," said Hinrichs.

At the clinic, they've been seeing 1,000 hacking, sneezing, feverish patients a day. That's about twice the usual amount.

Missouri Sen. Claire McCaskill tweeted, "Sleep. Water. Sleep. Water" to let the world know she's come down with a flu that hits hard and fast.

In most cases, someone will feel OK one minute, and have acute onset of a fever that can be as high as 103, 104 degrees within the next hour.

At St. Louis Children's Hospital, they take no chances with visitors. We were outfitted with an isolation gown, protective gloves and a mask before talking to 6-year-old Daniel Harris whose temperature had spiked to 103 degrees. He's had the flu for eight days and his parents brought him to the hospital Wednesday night after he suffered a seizure. His mother Ruth was at his bedside. 

"What did we say?" she asked her son. 

"It's the pits," Daniel answered.

The combination of holiday travel and kids returning to school created a breeding ground for this flu outbreak and doctors in Missouri believe they're in for at least 10 more days before it subsides.

  • Dean Reynolds
    Dean Reynolds

    Dean Reynolds is a CBS News National Correspondent based in Chicago.