ST. LOUIS – How many people do you know who've been sick with the flu this winter?

The number of flu cases so far this season is staggering.

The St. Louis Department of Health reported 1,572 confirmed cases of influenza in the city since October 1, 2017.

The week of December 31 through January 7 saw a total of nearly 600 cases. There were fewer than 100 cases during the same period the year before. The number began climbing in the city the week of December 10.

So many sick people are flooding the emergency department at Barnes-Jewish Hospital, workers had to expand the emergency room waiting area into the physician’s dining room. A spokesman for the hospital said doctors there are seeing as many as 35 flu-like cases per day.

It’s a similar story in St. Louis County where 4,399 flu cases are confirmed so far. There were a total of 5,825 cases confirmed in the previous flu season. The spike in St. Louis County started around the same time as in the city.

But why are there so many cases this year? Dr. Sonny Saggar, M.D. said there are a few reasons.

“The vaccine only provided about 30-percent protection against the virus this year and that was probably the biggest part of it,” said Saggar. “Another reason is that people get complacent and a lot of people don't bother to get the flu shot.”

Saggar runs Downtown Urgent Care at 916 Olive Street. He says he’s seen his share of flu cases and expects more in the coming weeks.

“It's really only the first wave,” said Sagger. “Sometimes you can get a second wave and even a third wave of flu.”

Saggar said those waves usually come about every three or four weeks. That’s why he recommends anyone who hasn’t already gotten a flu shot should do it now.

While it may not prevent you from getting sick, Saggar said something is better than nothing.

“It will reduce the intensity of the symptoms,” he said.