October 17, 2018

Flu season has already begun, with one pediatric and two adult deaths reported in the U.S. The intensity of the illness made last year’s flu season the worst since the swine flu pandemic of 2009-2010, with thousands of cases across Cook County including nearly 1,000 intensive care hospitalizations. Cook County Health (CCH) encourages residents to protect themselves and others by getting a flu shot.

“The single best way to protect yourself against the flu is to get vaccinated,” said Dr. David Schwartz, chair of infectious disease. “If you don’t do it for yourself, consider those children and elderly individuals in your life who are more at-risk for becoming critically ill if you pass the virus on to them. The flu shot is important for their health.”

Influenza is a serious disease that can lead to hospitalization and sometimes even death. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports more than 80,000 people died during last year’s flu season. Every flu season is different, and influenza infection can affect people differently. Even healthy people can get very sick from the flu and spread it to others.

In the U.S., up to 20 percent of the population is infected with the flu every year and more than 200,000 people are hospitalized for it. The CDC recommends every individual six months of age or older get a yearly flu shot, which protects against several strains of the virus.

CCH encourages people to practice good hygiene to prevent disease transmission and to call their doctor if they have influenza symptoms. Unlike a cold, influenza symptoms of the flu can include fever, cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, body aches, headache, chills and fatigue. Some people may also have vomiting and diarrhea.

Much of the U.S. population is at increased risk from serious flu complications, either because of their age or because they have a medical condition like asthma, diabetes (type 1 and 2), or heart conditions; or because they are pregnant.

More than one-third of people 50 through 64 years of age have one or more chronic medical conditions that put them at increased risk of serious complications from flu.