Many would be shocked to know an average of 3,500 people in Illinois die each year from the flu and related complications.
Health officials on Friday reminded residents to take precautions. Cook County Public Health Officials said this season’s strain is spreading earlier, and is more severe.
“This season we are seeing significant illnesses, [and] we’ve got patients that have required the intensive care unit care within Stroger Hospital because of cases of influenza this year,” said Dr. Jay Shannon.
So far this season, Cook County Health & Hospitals System alone has confirmed 149 cases, compared to 210 for the entire season last year.
It’s estimated about 1,500 people have tested positive for the flu in the Chicago area.
The Chicago Fire Department put five more ambulances on the street to combat the flu outbreak that has flooded emergency rooms.
At Stroger and Provident hospitals, visitors are being screened for flu symptoms.
“They will be given a mask and tissue and they will not be allowed to visit,” Dr. Sharon Welbel said.
Influenza, which is the H3N2 virus, is predominant this season. In the past, the flu vaccine has not been as effective against that strain, but health officials still recommend getting the vaccine.
"There's also Influenza B and another strain of Influenza A, so it does work better on those strains and it's more likely if a person gets vaccinated they will have a milder case of the flu," Welbel said.
Babies over 6 months old, those over 65 years old and the chronically ill are especially susceptible.
Maddie Brooke said her doctor confirmed today she has the flu.
“I'm achy all over, I've got a cough. I just feel like somebody’s run me over," she said.
And she's staying home. That's what doctors recommend as hospitals in the Chicago area are seeing a spike in flu cases.
At 6 months pregnant, Brooke knows time and rest will be her best medicines.
"That’s really all I can do is hope and pray that it works itself out," she said.
Doctors also recommended following the three Cs to prevent the spread of flu: clean, cover and contain. That means frequently cleaning your hands, covering your nose and mouth when you sneeze or cough, and contain the flu by staying home if you’re sick.