Flu Cases Spike in Chicago Area as Season Nears End: Health Officials

Officials at the Kane County Health Department said ER visits for the flu more than tripled last month

This flu season should soon be coming to an end, but instead, health officials say it’s actually ramping up in parts of the Chicago area.

While outbreaks have been mild so far, data shows more people are being diagnosed with the flu every week.

“The flu has been mild this year and just in the last couple weeks we've seen an uptick,” said Uche Onwuta with the Kane County Health Department.

Officials at the Kane County Health Department said ER visits for the flu more than tripled last month.

But despite the late spike, experts say the numbers overall have decreased and the Centers for Disease Control said flu outbreaks remain localized.

Alexander Tomich, a doctor at Rush University Medical Center, said a new and effective vaccine and unseasonably warm termperatures in December and January contributed to the unusually low number of reported cases in the Chicago area.

“This year, it’s been different than it has in season’s past,” said Tomich. “This year the CDC estimates the shot is a good match for the circulating strain that’s occurring out there.”

For those who shy away from needles, a nasal spray flu vaccine is another viable option the CDC recommends, providing the same protection against the virus without having to get a shot.

Last year, CDC experts said the flu shot wasn’t as effective as it should have been after a new strain of influenza started circulating, but experts said even a less effective vaccine could prevent hospitalizations and deaths, particularly among young people and children.

This year, the flu shot was different, health officials said. 

Flu can be a serious illness, particularly for young children, senior citizens and those with such chronic conditions as asthma, heart disease or diabetes. On average thousands die each year from the flu, a number that can fluctuate depending on which strain is circulating. The CDC has estimated from a low of 3,000 deaths to a high of 49,000 between the 1976-1977 and 2006-2007 seasons.

The CDC recommends that you get a vaccine every year even when the viruses the vaccine protects against have not changed. Your immune protection from the vaccination will decline over time.

Symptoms for influenza include a fever, sore throat, muscle aches, fatigue, cough, headache, and a runny or stuffy nose.

For a full list of the types of flu vaccines available and answers to influenza-related questions, visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's website here.

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