Cook County doctors see spike in flu cases this winter

CHICAGO (WLS) -- Flu season is here and doctors have noted a big spike in the number of cases they're seeing. They said the predominant strain this year also has more severe symptoms.

There has been such a surge in flu cases in Cook County that health officials are planning a press conference Friday morning to talk about the virus.

It's too soon to know why the county is seeing such a high number of cases, but doctors think the particular strain of influenza this year may play a role.

"If you're sick, stay home from work. If your children are sick, keep them home from school. Those are areas where flu can easily be spread, so you want to minimize that," said Dr. Alexander Tomich, Rush University Medical Center.

Tomich also said your mom's advice holds true: wash your hands and cover your cough or sneeze. Doctors at Rush saw 70 confirmed cases of the flu during December. There were just 12 cases in December 2016.

And those who have gotten the flu this winter probably feel especially bad.

"The H3-N2 strain that is the predominant strain circulating at this time tends to be one that is more severe in terms of symptoms," Tomich said.

Symptoms include a fever, cough, sore throat and runny or stuffy nose. And while the extreme cold the Chicago area is experiencing doesn't cause the flu, it also doesn't help.

"The cold weather drives people indoors where it potentially be spread more," said Tomich.

Early reports indicate this year's vaccine may not be a good match for this year's most prevalent flu strains, but doctors said having the vaccine could lessen the symptoms if you do get sick.
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