The flu bug bites this year
Lisa Fiedler, a registered nurse at Advocate Good Samaritan Hospital, checks on 4-month-old Kaleb Green of Westmont who had flu-like symptoms with his dad, Curtis Green, in the emergency department. | Ryan Pagelow~Sun-Times Media
Tips for staying healthy
• Frequently wash your hands with soap and water, lathering for at least 20 seconds
• Get a flu shot
• Get plenty of sleep
• Drink at least eight glasses of water a day to prevent dehydration
• Boost your immunity with Vitamin C by eating fruits and vegetables and taking a daily multivitamin
• Avoid sharing eating utensils and other things you use near your eyes and your mouth
• Stay home if you are sick
Updated: March 11, 2013 2:19AM
HINSDALE — The flu did not wait for snow and frigid temperatures to strike this winter.
“We are seeing widespread activity much earlier than usual and an elevated number of cases of influenza,” compared with previous years, said Melaney Arnold, a spokeswoman for the Illinois Department of Public Health.
“Typically, we see the peak in January or February,” but this year the number of cases climbed dramatically in December, Arnold said.
The Public Health Department reports between Oct. 13 and Dec. 22, there were 74 admissions of people with symptoms of influenza to intensive care units at hospitals throughout the state that voluntarily report influenza data. Fifty-one of those cases were between Dec. 9 and Dec. 22.
Doctors locally are seeing a lot of influenza cases, “especially in the last few weeks,” said Dr. Smitha Rajasekhar, a member of Hinsdale Primary Care Associates at Adventist Hinsdale Hospital.
The flu is “a very contagious respiratory illness, caused by the influenza virus,” Rajasekhar said.
Symptoms include a cough, sore throat, severe fatigue and body aches, which often come on suddenly. A fever of 100 degrees or more may be present, but patients can have the flu and not have a fever, she said.
“Usually the severity of the symptoms” indicate a person has the flu virus and not just a common cold, Rajasekhar said.
She has seen a number of patients who, in addition to influenza infection, have a secondary bacterial infection, such as a sinus infection, bacterial pneumonia or strep infection.
Viral infections last five to seven days, Rajasekhar said. If someone feels ill longer than that, they may have a bacterial infection, too.
There’s no cure for the flu, but Rajasekhar said if a patient infected with the influenza virus seeks treatment within the first 24 to 48 hours, giving him the prescription medicine Tamiflu could shorten the illness by one to two days.
Charlie Pfau, a pharmacist at the Walgreens in Grant Square in Hinsdale, gets the flu vaccine as soon as it comes out in August. In the past four years, when he was vaccinated, he has not gotten the flu.
Walgreens pharmacists still are administering the flu vaccine and will do so until the supply runs out or the season ends in March, Pfau said.
On Jan. 3, the Walgreens in Hinsdale vaccinated 17 people, but by 2 p.m. the next day, only six people had requested a flu shot.
Pfau said generally the vaccine becomes effective two weeks after a person is vaccinated.”