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'It has really exploded': Urgent cares in St. Louis see surge in respiratory illness patients

Experts worried about a so-called "tripledemic" of influenza, RSV and COVID-19. It now seems to have made it to St. Louis.

ST. LOUIS — Affinia Healthcare Medical Urgent Care on Lemp Avenue saw a near-constant stream of cars coming in and out Tuesday afternoon, with staff noting that traffic has accelerated over the past 48 hours.

"It has really exploded," said Dr. David Miller, clinical director for Affinia Urgent Care. "We have a two-hour wait today and yesterday. It has been a very busy couple of days."

Miller said most patients don't have a primary care physician, so this is their first stop for medical care, and about half are complaining of respiratory illnesses.

This fall, experts have been warning about a so-called "tripledemic" of influenza, respiratory syncytial virus and COVID-19 across the U.S.

"The numbers we are seeing are much higher than before," Miller said. "I am just really surprised by how quickly the flu cases this year have really taken off."

RELATED: RSV vaccine trial site in St. Louis led by WashU

Nichole MacLellan with Mercy-GoHealth said the health care provider's offices were similarly surprised by a surge so early in the winter season.

"Looking at numbers from October to November, we are seeing a 25% increase in patient volume across-the-board at all of our centers," MacLellan said. "I think this year's influenza season hit us a lot sooner than we were expecting, so not everybody had time to go out and get that vaccine."

According to health care workers, the best things you can do to prevent getting sick are the things we've been talking about for the past few years: 

  • Get vaccinated.
  • Use a face mask in crowds.
  • Practice social distancing.
  • Stay home when you're not feeling well.

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