Chicago bracing for severe flu season

CHICAGO (WLS) -- Get ready for a severe flu season. Experts say it's expected to be worse than last year and that has many in the Chicago area taking important preventative steps.

The holiday season at the end of December and into January is considered the peak season for the flu, and some experts are predicting this could be the worst season for the flu in many years.

Eastly Lewis said that because of her heart condition, she gets a flu shot every year. And the van in her neighborhood makes that especially convenient.

"My cardiologist always recommends or gives me the flu shot every year just because it would be so difficult for me breathing with my heart condition," Lewis said.

The Chicago Department of Public Health is sponsoring a number of flu vaccine clinics this week, encouraging people to get flu shots. Based on the flu season in Australia, which hit earlier this year, they say Chicago may get hit hard.

"They had a pretty severe season and the strain in the U.S. is similar to Australia, so that gives us a hint it could be a severe season," said Julie Morita, Chicago Department of Public Health.

That's part of the reason why the clinic in Englewood was so busy on Thursday. Ronald Morrison said he never used to get them until recently.

"This is my second time, my second year getting it because I figure I'm getting older," Morrison said.

Doctors say preventing the spread of the flu is also important and you should wash your hands often, cover your mouth when you cough and stay home when you are sick. Flu shots are especially important for young children, the elderly and pregnant women.

"They're more likely to get seriously sick and end up in the hospital," Morita said.

Doctors said it generally takes two to three weeks after getting a flu shot for the vaccine to become fully effective, so it's best to get a shot as soon as possible before those holiday get-togethers when the flu can spread quickly.
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