This is an archived article and the information in the article may be outdated. Please look at the time stamp on the story to see when it was last updated.

ST. LOUIS — Health officials are worried about the possibility of a difficult flu season this winter.

Doctors at SSM Health St. Louis University Hospital said a smattering of flu cases have already popped up in the area. Last season, the flu nearly disappeared in the St. Louis area due to strong COVID mitigation efforts, such as mask-wearing and handwashing.  

“Things are a little more open now, and more people are interacting and less cautious than they were last year,” said Dr. Fred Buckhold, a SLUCare physician and general internist at SSM Health St. Louis University Hospital.

Experts are urging everyone to get a flu shot even though there are questions about the vaccine’s effectiveness. Doctors said the flu virus changes so rapidly the vaccine we get may not be as effective against a new virus.

St. Louis area hospitals are nearly full and with the possibility of a flu outbreak, the health care system could be strained even more.

“We’re seeing this uptick of COVID cases and starting to see a slight increase in hospitalizations, and then you add flu to it to an already kind of system that’s operating at a max capacity,” said Buckhold. “That’s our big worry. This is what I always tell people. We’ll do our job we’re happy to do it this is our privilege to take care of the sick, but the health system is trained.”

Buckhold’s main message is for everyone to get a flu shot and a COVID shot as soon as possible.