Flu cases widespread in Illinois

February 7, 2011

According to the Illinois Department of Public Health, there is now widespread flu activity throughout Illinois. That is not unusual for this time of year, although the increase in activity may be here a little later than is typical.

The City of Chicago is also reporting a increase in cases with more people now being hospitalized with flu.

Employees at some hospital will receive mandatory flu shots.

Rush University Medical Center is hoping to control possible spread by screening anyone coming in to visit patients. They're basically questioned about how they are feeling and if they are exhibiting symptoms. If so, visitors may be asked to go home or to wear a mask.

Patients coming in with flu symptoms will be asked to wear a mask.

"It gets visitors to think about 'Well, should I really should I be visiting, I have a sniffle' because we really don't want them to visit if they're sick and put the person they're visiting at risk," said Mary Alice Lavin, Rush University Medical Center.

Rush tried the screening for the first time last year when the H1N1 virus was at its peak. Health officials do not know how much of a difference it makes, but they say it certainly heightens awareness.

This week the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention elevated Illinois and Indiana on its watch list. The states now join 30 others with widespread flu activity.

"I've had a cold for the last week and a half and I can't get rid of it," said Kendall Jesser.

Jesser's been fighting coughing, sneezing and itchy eyes. On Monday, she finally sought help at a clinic inside a CVS Pharmacy. Nurse practitioners at the drugstore are also reporting an uptick in flu cases.

The season runs through March. Health experts say for those who aren't sick, it's not too late to innoculate.

"It takes about two weeks after you have the vaccine to build up in your system to actually protect you from the flu," said Erin Buckley, CVS nurse practitioner.

Unfortunately for Kendall Jesser, the diagnosis is a bad cold -- one the flu shot she received a few months ago can't prevent.

Influenza symptoms include: fever, cough, sore throat, runny nose, headaches, bodyaches and chills.

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