State warns, still time to get a flu shot

The Illinois Department of Public Health (DPH) is urging residents to get the flu shot as influenza activity increases across the state. It has now categorized the influenza, or the flu, as “widespread” in the state and is promoting prevention and vaccination.

The flu season typically runs from October to May and reaches its peak from December to March. Residents can still get the flu vaccine if they haven’t already to help protect them through the remaining peak time.

“The best thing we recommend is for people to get a flu shot,” Melaney Arnold, a spokesperson for the Department of Health, said. “That is still a possibility. It’s not too late to get a flu shot.”

Flu vaccines are still available at most health care providers. If residents are having trouble finding a provider with the flu shot, they can go to the Department of Public Health’s website and use the Flu Vaccine Finder tool.

The DPH has reported 177 influenza-related Intensive Care Unit hospital cases, 55 outbreaks and zero pediatric deaths so far this flu season. Influenza and pneumonia, which can be a complication of the flu, have been associated with an average of 3,500 deaths a year over the last 10 years in Illinois.

“Some of the people at most risk for serious complication from the flu are younger children, older people, and those that have certain chronic conditions like asthma, a heart condition or diabetes,” Arnold said.

Influenza is an infection of the respiratory tract caused by the influenza virus, which brings symptoms such as a fever, cough, sore throat and muscle aches. Along with the flu shot, residents may see a healthcare provider for antiviral drugs to help lessen the severity and length of the flu if treated at the onset of symptoms.

The DPH also promotes the “three Cs” of clean, cover and contain. The public needs to clean and wash hands frequently with soap and hot water for about 20 seconds, cover any sneezes or coughs with a tissue and contain any illness or germs by staying home when sick.

Arnold emphasized the importance of containment — staying home if you find yourself with flu-like symptoms.

“What you want to do is make sure you’re staying home when you’re sick,” Arnold said. “Stay home about 24 hours after your fever has broke and then typically that is when it is determined you’re no longer infectious.”

–Illinois News Network

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