Flu epidemic spreading but may be reaching its peak

January 12, 2013 8:06:35 AM PST
The flu virus is continuing to spread across the country.

But the Center for Disease Control says there is a bright side. There are also early signs that the caseload could be reaching its peak.

Yet, the flu death toll in Illinois has reached 27. At this point in 2012, there were no flu deaths yet.

The Chicago Department of Public Health released the latest numbers on flu cases in our area.

Flu activity remains "elevated' and so far 121 hospitalizations have been reported, according to the report.

That is nearly double the total number of cases reported last flu season. The previous season was a particulary mild one.

The good news is that there's been a slight decrease in the number of flu cases reported over the previous week.

"We think it's peaking. We won't know until the next couple of weeks and see what the epidemic trend looks like," the Director of the Illinois Dept. of Public Health Dr. LaMar Hasbrouck said.

In the meantime the CDC is urging all Americans get flu shots. Yet the agency emphasizes the vaccine is only 62-percent effective.

"We are seeing patients who did get or receive the flu shot who are still getting the flu," Dr. Tarlan Hedayati of Stroger Hospital said.

That isn't stopping health professionals from encouraging people to keep getting vaccinated.

They said it's still the best protection and it's not too late to get the shot.

"Continue getting the flu shot even now," Hedayati said. "You still have time. You can absolutely get it."

With four children from ages five to 12, Lisa Moyer is taking no chances.

"It seems pretty alarming. The numbers are pretty high right now, and I thought it was important to get them vaccinated," Moyer said.

Moyer called 311 to find one of the city's free immunization clinics which have seen double the usual walk-ins this week.

"Most of my friends have caught it already. So I'm pretty glad that I'm not going to catch it," she said.

Even though it's officially being called an epidemic, officials are expressing no alarm.

Flu outbreaks typically reach epidemic levels for one or two bad weeks every season, according to experts.

The severity of a season depends on many deaths there are and how many weeks they persist.

How do you know if you need to go to the hospital? Experts say if you're a healthy individual it's probably best to stay home.

"Just stay in bed and riding it out is probably going to be what the doctor orders," Dr. Jennifer Earvolino at Rush University Medical Center said.

The worst may be over in several states where the flu was severe, according to the CDC.

The number of hard hit states has dropped from 29 to 24.

However, nasty stomach bug called norovirus is also on the move throughout the country to make matters worse.

The bottom line is to just keep washing your hands.