VALORIE EVERSOLE - Daily Union Reporter
SHELBYVILLE, IL. —
Influenza activity continue to increase across Illinois resulting in more hospitalizations and death compared to last year.
The activity began earlier this season and continues to spread quickly, but health experts are still calling it a moderate flu season. It has already become widespread in 40 states.
“We have been and continue to see an increase in flu activity across the state,” said Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) director Dr. LaMar Hasbrouck. “The flu strain that is predominately circulating this year is typically more severe, with more hopsitalizations and deaths. From the beginning of October through the end of December we’ve seen almost 150 people admitted to hospital intensive care units (ICU) with influenza like illness. There have also been six flu-related deaths of ICU patients. This compares to last year at this time when there were only two ICU hospitalizations and no deaths.”
According to the IDPH surveillance statistics, the number of ICU admissions grew from 6 during the first week in December to 73 during the final week of December.
“Due to the increased flu activity, many people are going to hospital emergency departments. So much so that some hospitals have needed to direct all but the most critical patients to nearby hospitals because they do not have enough room or possibly staff to see patients,” Hasbrouck said. “In most cases we recommend contacting a health professional before going to an emergency department if you are experiencing flu symptoms. The majority of people suffering from the flu simply need to stay home, rest and let the flu run its course. Typically only people with severe respiratory illness who have trouble breathing need to visit a hospital emergency department.”
“We’re not seeing so many flu cases in the hospital, but the community is being hit with it,” said Penny Jiter, RN, at Shelby Memorial Hospital. “The flu has hit early this year. Doctors are encouraging people to stay home with it.”
The best defense is vaccination. Hasbrouck noted that flu season normally runs through March and sometimes later. Even if you get the flu. the vaccine can reduce the amount of time you’re sick and the severity of the symptoms. Also by getting vaccinated, you help protect infants, the elderly and those with chronic diseased who are at greatest risk for complications from the flu.
The Shelby County Health Department has a limited amount of vaccine available and suggests calling ahead.
Area pharmacies also still have flu vaccines available.
To reduce the spread of influenza and other contagious diseases, it is always important to practice the 3 Cs: Clean - properly wash your hands frequently; Cover - cover your cough and sneeze; Contain - contain your germs by staying home if you are sick.