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Illinois seeing 'widespread' of flu activity

Published: Wednesday, Jan. 8, 2014 5:30 a.m. CDT

MORRIS – It’s not too late to get a flu vaccination, a precaution Illinois residents may want if influenza continues to spread throughout the state.

“There’s still vaccinations available at our health care centers and others,” said Gail Steele, infection prevention nurse for Morris Hospital. “We don’t stop administering them until the vaccinations run out.”

Typically, flu season peaks around February, according to information from flu.gov, but Illinois already is seeing “widespread” activity, meaning at least half of the regions in the state have seen cases in the past three weeks.

In the last week of December alone, the Illinois Department of Public Health reported 42 cases of influenza with two of those cases causing death. Nearly all of the cases were caused by the H1N1 strand, the same strand behind the massive influenza outbreak of 2009.

Locally, Morris Hospital has only seen 142 cases since October, which is down from last year at this time when 330 cases were reported.

“It’s difficult for us to draw conclusions from that figure because we still have several weeks of the flu season ahead of us,” said Janet Long, public relations manager for Morris Hospital. “It’s hard to know what the flu will do because each year it doesn’t peak at the same time.”

Steele said the cold temperatures can take a toll on the immune system, but more importantly, they force people to stay inside, often in close proximity, which can accelerate the spread of the flu.

“It doesn’t actually cause the disease, but it’s when people are close together and sharing,” Steele said. “Both this year and last year, we saw a slight jump with the holidays. More people are close together then.”

Steele said 90 percent of their staff is vaccinated and those who are not are required to wear a protective mask.

Judy Bailey, director of nursing for the Grundy County Health Department, said the health department also has vaccines available and added that this year’s vaccine treats the H1N1 virus, which may prove to be a problem again this year.

“There’s still plenty of time to get your flu shot,” Bailey said. “Also, it’s important to remember to wash hands and take precautions.”

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