|January 13, 2004||2003 Influenza Surveillance|
INFLUENZA OUTBREAK IN ILLINOIS HAS PEAKED
SPRINGFIELD, Ill. -- Dr. Eric E. Whitaker, state public health director, today announced that an outbreak of the flu that has sickened thousands in Illinois since early November has peaked and reports of illness are on the decline.
"At least for now, it appears the worst of this flu outbreak may be behind us," Dr. Whitaker said. "However, the flu season typically runs from November to April so we could still experience another flu outbreak. It is not time for us to let our defenses down and people who have not been vaccinated, particularly those who are considered at high-risk for complications from the flu, should be immunized."
The vaccination can be given at any time during the flu season, but it takes about two weeks for immunity to develop and provide protection.
The influenza activity rating, which has been at its highest level - "widespread" - in Illinois since the week of Dec. 13, was downgraded today by the Department to "regional" based on information received from physician offices, hospital emergency departments, schools and nursing homes from throughout the state. Regional means that there is flu activity in some regions of the state - most notably in the Chicago metropolitan area - but is not "widespread," or in all areas.
Early in the flu season it was suggested that the influenza strain circulating might be more virulent, especially for children. As a result, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) asked states to report deaths of children caused by the flu or its complications.
So far this flu season, there have been two Illinois children who died from influenza-related illness - a 2-year-old and a 4-year-old. Both lived in suburban Cook County. In 2001, the last complete year for which death statistics are available, there were 26 children age 4 and younger who died with flu or pneumonia.
For those still in need of a flu shot, Dr. Whitaker encouraged them to either contact their local health department or health care provider. The Department has been notified by CDC that 11,000 doses of vaccine are available for purchase by the state's local health departments to meet demand for the remainder of the flu season.
"Flu can be a serious illness and each year it kills an average of 36,000 Americans and requires 114,000 people to be hospitalized with complications, including pneumonia," Dr. Whitaker said. "A simple flu shot can help prevent a person from getting the virus, as well as help to limit the number of people who spread the disease."
The following are those considered most at risk and for whom a yearly flu shot is recommended:
Those who care for or live with persons at high risk should also get a flu shot, including:
Dr. Whitaker said the flu vaccine is safe, effective and made from killed influenza viruses, which cannot cause the flu. Less than one-third of those who receive the shot have some soreness at the vaccination site and about 5 percent to 10 percent experience mild side effects, such as headache or low-grade fever, for about a day after vaccination. People who are allergic to eggs or who have an acute illness with fever should check with their physician before receiving the vaccine.
Supplies of the live vaccine, which is available as a nasal mist known as FluMist, are plentiful. This vaccine can be given to healthy individuals 5 years of age to 49 years of age. Health care providers are encouraged to give it to healthy children ages 5 to 9 who need a second dose of flu vaccine. The first flu immunization ever for any child 6 months to 9 years of age requires two doses of vaccine.
Even without being vaccinated, there are steps that can be taken to reduce transmission of flu:
Influenza, commonly called the flu, is caused by viruses that infect the respiratory tract and spreads from person to person when an infected person coughs or sneezes. Typical flu symptoms include fever (usually 100 degrees F in adults and often higher in children), dry cough, runny or stuffy nose, headache, muscle aches and extreme fatigue.
After a person has been infected with the virus, symptoms usually appear within one to four days. The infection is considered contagious for up to five days after symptoms appear and illness usually lingers for a week or two. Each year, an estimated 10 percent to 20 percent of the population contracts influenza.
Those who develop flu-like symptoms should drink fluids, rest and stay home. Those who have the flu may also take over-the-counter drugs such as acetaminophen and ibuprofen, but aspirin should be avoided because taking it for some forms of flu has been associated with Reye's syndrome, a serious disease in children that can occur following a viral illness and that causes swelling of the brain.
of Public Health
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