According to the Illinois Department of Public Health, Illinois and the rest of the nation are experiencing an earlier flu season than normal, with high numbers of influenza-like illnesses.
DeKalb County has seen increased visits to hospital emergency departments for flu-like illness, according to the DeKalb County Health Department. Public Health Administrator Jane Lux is encouraging residents to get a flu shot to protect themselves and their families for the rest of the flu season.
“Getting a flu shot is the best defense against the flu. It is also important to limit the spread of influenza and other contagious diseases by practicing the 3Cs,” she said.
The 3Cs of flu prevention are clean (properly and frequently wash hands or use alcohol-based hand sanitizers), cover (cough or sneeze into the crook of your elbow or a tissue, not into your hand. If you use a tissue, throw it away immediately) and contain (stay home if you are sick).
In most cases, health officials recommend people contact their doctor before visiting the emergency department. Typically, only people with severe respiratory illness need to visit the hospital ED, Illinois Public Health Director Dr. LaMar Hasbrouck said.
Flu can make even the healthiest person seriously ill. It’s not too late to get a flu shot, as the flu season runs through March and sometimes later. It takes about two weeks after receiving the vaccine for antibodies to build up in the body. Consult a doctor if symptoms such as fever, cough, sore throat, runny stuffy nose, body aches, headaches, chills and fatigue are worsening. Pregnant women and people with chronic health conditions like asthma, emphysema, diabetes, or heart disease should contact their physician early if they begin experiencing flu-like symptoms.
Pregnant women, young children, those with chronic health conditions and people 65 and older are especially at risk for complications from the flu.
Some people who get vaccinated may still get the flu, but the vaccine can also reduce the severity of symptoms and shorten the duration of the illness.
The health department, doctor’s offices and some pharmacies offer the flu shot. The health department offers walk-in adult flu clinics from 8 a.m. to noon and 1 to 4:30 p.m. daily. Flu shots for children 6 months to 18 years old are also available from the health department; call 815-748-2460 for an appointment.
Influenza is a highly-contagious upper respiratory illness that can include fever, cough, sore throat, nasal congestion, body aches, headache, chills, fatigue, diarrhea and vomiting. Most cases are mild, but severe or worsening symptoms may require medical attention.
Warning signs that one should seek medical attention:
• In children: fast or labored breathing, bluish skin color, not drinking, not waking up, not interacting, fever with a rash, flu symptoms that improve but then return and worsen and being so irritable the child does not want to be held. Additional signs in infants include inability to eat, significantly fewer wet diapers than normal or crying without tears.
• In adults: difficulty breathing or shortness of breath, pain or pressure in the chest or abdomen, sudden dizziness, confusion, severe or persistent vomiting or flu symptoms that improve but then return and worsen.
Source: American Lung Association