Flu cases on the rise, causes one death in McLean County

By Audrey Williams

January 9, 2013 Updated Jan 10, 2013 at 11:36 AM CDT

BLOOMINGTON, Ill -- Across the U.S., emergency rooms and doctor's offices are being flooded with flu patients.

This year's flu strand appears to be more severe, with more hospitalizations and deaths nationwide.

At about half way through the flu season, it's proving to be off to a strong start.

Outside an emergency room in Pennsylvania, a tent has been set up to triage flu patients. Doctors at the Mayo Clinic are seeing more patients than during the peak of the H1N1 epidemic.

Flu data is measured by the number of Intensive Care Unit cases. In Illinois, there have been 150 cases and six flu-related deaths, including a 54-year-old woman in McLean County.

"Majority of the time, as far as ICU cases, we're normally running as a year total of five, anything less than five. But right now we are at five," said Communication Specialist Kera Simon with the McLean County Health Department.

In comparison, last year, McLean County saw only one ICU influenza case and no deaths.

Pediatrician Dr. Aaron Traeger and Promptcare Physician Dr. John Kreckman say about one-third of their patients right now present flu-like symptoms.

"Compared to last year, especially, we are seeing much more volume than we were previously," Dr. Traeger said.

"Our total volumes have been right through the charts. We're seeing 70-80 patients a day," said Dr. John Kreckman.

The flu is highly contagious, anyone with a runny nose, congestion, and especially a fever should stay home and away from people as much as they can until 24 hours after the fever breaks.

For everyone else, take steps to help stop the spread of germs.

"The most important thing that anybody can do with any type of infection is good hand hygiene," said Dr. Traeger. "Washing your hands, using the alcohol hand sanitizers are incredibly important."

Finally, the health community agrees, the hallmark of flu prevention is the annual flu shot.

"For children under the age of 18 the flu shot is very, very essential in making sure they are not only getting sick from the flu but also so they are not spreading the flu as well," said Dr. Traeger.

Doctors say it is not too late to get a vaccine to protect you and the ones you love this flu season.

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