530 people statewide have been hospitalized due to the flu this season. (photo by U.S. Army Corps of Engineers/flickr)
By Zach Dietmeier
BLOOMINGTON - Illinois flu activity continues to be high in a season where the virus struck earlier than usual.
The number of flu deaths in Illinois has risen to 58. State health officials said Friday more than 530 people with the flu have been admitted to hospital intensive care units so far this season. Meanwhile, the McLean County Health Department said local flu cases are beginning to decrease slightly. Community Health Services Supervisor Sue Albee cautions, however, that it's still not too late to get a flu shot.
"It only takes about two or three weeks to build up immunity and we typically see flu cases, maybe not in high numbers, into March and April," Albee said. "With as severe as the strain has been this year we definitely encourage you to still get a flu shot."
One death in McLean County occured in November, but the Health Department says all of the statewide deaths but one were people 50 or older.
"That [death] was very early," Health Department spokesperson Kera Simon said. "Normally if we ever saw a death in the county it would come around January or February. We are urging people to take this seriously and realize the importance."
This year's main flu strain tends to make people sicker, and Albee added the warm weather hasn't helped with perceptions of flu season.
"Typically the flu impacts the very young and the very old," Albee said. "I think that the last couple years have been so mild that most people chose not to get flu shots and so now we are impacted early while people who didn't get shots are getting sick."