Most area students are returning to the classroom this week, and the Will County Health Department will be watching.
Illinois is one of nearly 40 states currently experiencing widespread influenza activity and the Health Department will be monitoring school attendance to help gage the severity of the local problem. If current trends continue, the 2012-2013 flu season could be memorable.
In December, 2012, 19 Will County patients required Intensive Care Unit (ICU) hospitalization due to influenza-related issues. Only one ICU hospitalization involving influenza was reported in December, 2011. Sharp increases in influenza-related hospitalizations compel public health authorities to keep a wary eye on schools and long-term care facilities, where influenza can quickly spread.
“We’re seeing significant increases involving respiratory problems consistent with influenza-like illness,” according to John Kahler M.D., FAAP, Chief Medical Officer for the Will County Community Health Center in Joliet. “At our facility, patients presenting with ILI have increased by at least 20 percent. A flu shot is still a good idea for most of those who haven’t received one yet.”
The Illinois flu season officially commences in October and can last through May. The incidence of flu-related illness typically peaks in January and February, shortly after school resumes following lengthy holiday breaks.
Virtually everyone older than six months is considered to be a good candidate for a flu shot. Vaccine is available at physician offices, pharmacies, many grocery stores, quick care facilities, and Will County Health Department offices in Joliet, Bolingbrook, and University Park. Persons with questions about the need for a flu shot should consult with a health care provider.
In addition to a flu shot, frequent hand washing and covering your coughs and sneezes can help you to avoid illness. The Health Department also urges area residents to stay home when they are ill.
Flu symptoms include: fever, muscle aches, chills, coughing, sneezing, watery eyes, runny nose, fatigue, and dizziness. Persons with flu-like illness that persists for more than 48 hours should consult a health care provider.
For more information about influenza, visit the CDC.