Flu reaches epidemic levels

COLUMBIA, Mo. - The flu has reached epidemic levels nationwide.

Forty states are considered at a widespread level of outbreak.

The amount of people sickened is causing hospitals to take extra precautions to protect their patients.

Boone Hospital in Columbia is taking what they call the "droplet precaution."

That means that anyone going into the room of a patient with the flu must wear a mask and wash their hands as soon as they enter and exit a room.

Boone, along with University Hospital, St. Mary's Hospital in Jefferson City and Capital Region Medical Center in Jefferson City are asking anyone with flu-like symptoms not to visit the hospital.

Dr. Scott Schultz, with Providence Urgent Care, said limiting exposure could limit the spread.

"It's causing big issues here in Boone County and all over the an increase in the number of deaths," he said.

Like 11-year-old Savannah Hyden in Tennessee.  She died just three days after being diagnosed.

And she's not the only one. The CDC is reporting that 10 children have died from the flu this year.

Even though the number of cases is high, Dr. Schultz said that might not be a drop in the barrel compared to how many go undiagnosed.

"The influenza test isn't the best," he said. "It'll mess up 30 to 40 percent of the time, so we're missing quite a few cases."

That's why area hospitals are taking extra measures to stop the spread. 

There is good news -- Schultz said the flu numbers have peaked, and will be on a downswing now.

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