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Aches & Pains

Flu being felt across the area

Published: Friday, Jan. 18, 2013 7:13 a.m. CDT • Updated: Tuesday, Jan. 29, 2013 8:24 a.m. CDT

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Morris Hospital administrators implemented visitor restrictions in the hospital on Tuesday, effective until the influenza, or flu, season settles down a bit.

The Illinois Department of Public Health issued a recommendation that hospitals in the state implement the restrictions, according to Morris Hospital spokesperson Janet Long, due to the widespread nature of the flu this year.

Long said the hospital’s two immediate care centers — in Morris and Channahon — and the emergency room in the main hospital in Morris have been seeing much higher volumes of patients beginning the last week in December.

Oddly, Long said those outpatient visits were at normal levels this past week, but it’s difficult to say whether that’s going to be a trend or if the numbers will bounce back up again.

The hospital also has a higher than average number of inpatients admitted for complications that can be seen in those with the flu, such as pneumonia.

The restrictions imposed at the hospital include limiting the number of visitors to two per patient at any one time. No visitors under the age of 18 will be allowed, either, and visitors may be assessed for any symptoms of illness.

The restrictions are designed to keep patients and staff as protected as possible from viruses.

“We’re trying to help slow the spread of the flu,” Long said, “and to protect our patients. ... Somebody who is sick should certainly not be coming to the hospital to visit patients. We are asking for everyone’s cooperation.”

Long said the hospital will rely on information and recommendations from the Grundy County Health Department on when the visitor restrictions should be lifted.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the CDC, the country is experiencing an early flu season this year, with most of the country seeing high levels of flu-like illness. Some regions may have peaked, according to the center’s report this week, while others are still on the upswing.

The proportion of people seeing their health care providers for influenza symptoms remains above the national baseline for the fifth consecutive week.

SEVERE FLU SEASON

According to the Illinois Department of Public Health, Illinois is experiencing a severe flu season with many people becoming sick and more hospitalizations and deaths being reported than in previous years.

“There is no doubt we are experiencing a severe flu season. However, we have seen severe flu seasons before and we will continue to work to reduce the number of people who become ill,” Illinois Department of Public Health Director Dr. LaMar Hasbrouck said. “It is important for people to take precautions – get vaccinated, stay home if you’re sick and wash your hands frequently.  Doing all these things will not only help keep you healthy, but the people around you healthy.”

The strain of flu that is predominately circulating in Illinois and the country has historically been a more severe strain causing more hospitalizations and deaths. This year is no exception.

As of Jan. 11, the number of flu-related intensive care unit (ICU) hospitalizations so far this year is 368, with 27 flu-related ICU deaths. The majority of hospitalizations and deaths are of people in their 50s and older.

The Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) expected to see an increase in the number of hospitalizations and deaths as more health care providers report cases from previous weeks as well as current cases. The Department anticipates those numbers will continue to increase.

Common symptoms of flu include sore throat, high fever, cough, body aches and feeling fatigued. The Department recommends contacting a health professional before going to an emergency department if experiencing flu symptoms.

The majority of people suffering from the flu simply need to stay home, rest, use over-the-counter remedies as needed and let the flu run its course. Several hospital emergency departments have recently had to refer patients with such symptoms to other hospitals as they were at capacity. Typically only people with severe respiratory illness who have trouble breathing need to visit a hospital emergency department.

FLU SHOTS

The best way for people to protect themselves from getting the flu is to get a flu vaccination.

The Grundy County Health Department acknowledges Grundy County has seen an increase in flu-like illness in recent weeks. The department is reminding the public that it is not too late to vaccinate.

The vaccine is recommended for everyone six months and older, according to the IDPH. The flu season normally runs through March and sometimes later. The estimated effectiveness of the vaccine is 62 percent.

Vaccination can provide protection against the flu and should continue. Even unvaccinated people who have already gotten sick with one flu virus can still benefit from vaccination since the flu vaccine protects against three different flu viruses that are predicted to be the ones that will circulate each season.

People at high risk for developing serious flu complications include children younger than 5, people 65 years of age and older, pregnant women and people with certain long-term medical conditions, such as asthma, diabetes, heart disease, neurological and neurodevelopmental conditions, blood disorders, morbid obesity, kidney and liver disorders, HIV or AIDS, and cancer. For these people, getting the flu can mean more serious illness, including hospitalization, or it can mean a worsening of existing chronic conditions.

Please call (815) 941-3419 for more information or to make an appointment. Cost of adult flu regular dose vaccine is $25 for people 19 years of age and older. High dose adult vaccine for those 65 and older is $45.

Medicare and Medicaid cover the cost of the vaccine. People must present their card at the time of immunization. Children’s vaccines are given on Wednesdays by appointment. The Illinois Department of Public Health’s Vaccine for Children program will provide the vaccine for children 6 months to 18 years of age to those who meet the requirements. A $15 donation is requested for children receiving vaccines under this program but they will not be turned away because of inability to pay.

For more information, visit the Grundy County Health Department's website at www.grundyhealth.com. To find locations where flu vaccine is offered log onto www.idph.state.il.us.

For more information, log onto www.idph.state.il.us/flu/surveillance.htm. Illinois influenza surveillance reports are posted on the website every Friday afternoon.

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