Flu activity in Illinois has increased significantly over the past two weeks. The Illinois Department of Public Health reports that more than 120 patients have been admitted to intensive care units for flu, and six people have died.
In Will County, 30 patients have been admitted to the ICU at three hospitals since October, according to health department spokesman Vic Reato.
That includes 19 ICU admissions in the first week of January alone.
"So, it's obvious that the incidence of influenza is increasing," Reato said. "Whether this trend will continue is difficult to say," he added, explaining that variables including weather, immunization compliance and public awareness all come into play.
"I think the next couple of weeks will be critical," Reato said. "Vaccine is plentiful. It's not too late to get a shot."
Statewide, flu activity is now listed as "widespread" on the Centers for Disease Control's weekly influenza surveillance report.
The most recent flu illness data was submitted by Dec. 28, 2013. Data collected only one week prior for the week ending Dec. 21 listed Illinois as having only localized flu activity — not yet having reached the "regional" outbreak level.
In one week, the number of flu cases spiked, bypassing the regional categorization and climbing to "widespread," the highest level on the CDC's surveillance chart.
Everyone who is at least 6 months of age should get a flu vaccine, according to the CDC. It’s especially important for some people to get vaccinated:
- People who are at high risk of developing serious complications (like pneumonia) if they get sick with the flu.
- People who have certain medical conditions including asthma, diabetes, and chronic lung disease.
- Pregnant women.
- People younger than 5 years (and especially those younger than 2), and people 65 years and older.
- People who live with or care for others who are at high risk of developing serious complications (see list above).
- Household contacts and caregivers of people with certain medical conditions including asthma, diabetes, and chronic lung disease.
- Household contacts and caregivers of infants less than 6 months old.
Influenza vaccine is not approved for children younger than 6 months of age.
People who have had a severe allergic reaction to influenza vaccine should generally not be vaccinated.
There are some people who should not get a flu vaccine without first consulting a physician:
- People who have a moderate-to-severe illness with or without a fever (they should wait until they recover to get vaccinated), and
- People with a history of Guillain–Barré Syndrome (a severe paralytic illness, also called GBS) that occurred after receiving influenza vaccine and who are not at risk for severe illness from influenza should generally not receive vaccine.
Where to get vaccinated
Flu vaccine is available at pharmacies, doctor's offices and quick care clinics. The vaccine is available on a walk-in basis at the Will County Health Department main complex 501 Ella Ave. in Joliet, Monday through Friday, and by appointment at branch offices locations in Bolingbrook and University Park.
Hours for the walk-in clinic in Joliet are:
- Monday: 8:30-11:30 a.m.
- Tuesday and Thursday: 8:30-11:30 a.m. and 1-6 p.m.
- Wednesday: 1-4 p.m.
- Friday: 8:30-noon. NOTE -- No immunizations are available on the fourth Friday of the month.
For more information on flu shots available through the health department, visit www.wilcountyhealth.org or call 815-740-8143 to make an appointment.