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Flu Season Not Yet Over in Illinois

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PHOTO: It feels as nasty as it looks. This year's flu season hit early and, while itís now on a downward trend, experts say people can still catch the influenza virus. Photo credit: Frederick Murphy.
PHOTO: It feels as nasty as it looks. This year's flu season hit early and, while itís now on a downward trend, experts say people can still catch the influenza virus. Photo credit: Frederick Murphy.
February 28, 2014

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. - February may be coming to an end, but flu season in Illinois is not yet over.

The season typically starts in October and can run into May, said Melanie Arnold, a spokeswoman for the Illinois Department of Public Health. While flu activity in the state has been on the downward trend in the past few weeks, she said, it still isn't too late to get a flu shot if you haven't already.

"It does take about two weeks for the antibodies to build up to become fully effective, but we see cases in April and May and actually throughout the year," she said. "We just typically see it worse in the winter months."

It's important to note that some parents choose not to vaccinate their children for religious or moral beliefs, and others hold off until it can be determined whether a child is at risk for adverse reactions.

Influenza cases hit a peak in January, and 66 flu-related deaths have been reported in the state.

Influenza comes in different strains, and Arnold said the most common one this year has been the 2009 H1N1 virus.

"That strain of virus tended to hit some of the younger populations a little bit harder," she said. "The middle-aged group was a little bit more impacted than the older-aged groups, which is what we typically see."

Arnold cautioned that influenza viruses are different than colds, and can cause more severe illnesses and lead to serious medical complications, such as pneumonia. She said Illinoisans can take preventive steps to stay healthy.

"We typically refer to it as the three C's," she said. "Clean, cover and contain. 'Clean,' meaning wash your hands frequently. 'Cover' - cover your cough or your sneeze. And 'Contain' - contain your germs by staying home."

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, people from ages 18 to 64 represented 61 percent of all flu-related hospitalizations, compared with 35 percent the year before.

Flu activity reports are online at idph.state.il.us.

Mary Kuhlman, Public News Service - IL