Illinois Flu Cases Surpassing Prior Years' as Illness Surges Through Country

Influenza-like cases in Illinois are surpassing that of the last two years, based on data from the health department, as the illness makes a comeback across the U.S.

According to the Illinois Department of Public Health, the state has recorded 1.1% positive flu tests in total for the 2021-2022 season thus far, with 17 hospitalizations.

As of two weeks ago, Illinois recorded 1.9% positive test results, which remains higher than the 1% recorded in 2020 and 1.7% recorded in 2018 for the same week.

Based on the latest data, this year's flu season cases have been surpassing that of both the 2020-2021 and 2018-2019 seasons. However, the positivity rate is on a slight decline, which was not the case for most prior years.

Most hospitalizations this year have been in adults ages 65 and older, according to IDPH, although one individual between the ages of 0 and 4 and two others between ages 5 and 24 have also been admitted to the ICU.

IDPH reports data based on "influenza like illness," which health officials defined as having a fever of over 100 degrees accompanied by a cough or sore throat.

Throughout the U.S., flu hospitalizations are reportedly rising and two child deaths have been reported this season.

Last year's flu season was the lowest on record, likely because COVID-19 measures — school closures, distancing, masks and canceled travel — prevented the spread of influenza, or because the coronavirus somehow pushed aside other viruses.

“This is setting itself up to be more of a normal flu season,” said Lynnette Brammer, who tracks flu-like illnesses for the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The childhood deaths, which have been reported in Minnesota and Mississippi, are “unfortunately what we would expect when flu activity picks up," Brammer said.

During last year's unusually light flu season, one child died. In contrast, 199 children died from flu two years ago, and 144 the year before that.

In the newest data, the most intense flu activity was in the nation's capital, Washington, D.C., and the number of states with high flu activity rose from three to seven. In CDC figures released Monday, states with high flu activity are New Mexico, Kansas, Indiana, New Jersey, Tennessee, Georgia and North Dakota.

Here's how to spot the different between the cold and the flu, according to IDPH:

Common Cold Symptoms

  • Stuffy nose
  • Sneezing
  • Sore throat
  • Mild cough or chest discomfort
  • Mild fatigue

Common Flu Symptoms

  • Fever over 100 degrees, typically lasts three to four days
  • Headache
  • General aches, pains
  • Fatigue or weakness, can last up to two to three weeks
  • Extreme exhaustion
  • Chest discomfort or cough
NBC Chicago/Associated Press
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