January 5, 2018

The Cook County Health has seen a significant increase in the number of confirmed influenza cases in its health care facilities and influenza-like illnesses reported to the Cook County Department of Public Health in suburban Cook County, an earlier spike than in past influenza seasons.

“As a lung specialist and critical care physician, I know how serious influenza can be, especially among vulnerable patients. For those who are very young or very old, pregnant, or have a chronic health condition the flu can be fatal. An average of 3,500 people die each year in Illinois due to influenza and pneumonia and this influenza season is shaping up to be a very serious one,” said Dr. Jay Shannon, CEO, CCH.

CCH, which is comprised of Stroger and Provident Hospitals, more than one dozen community health centers and the health care facility at the Cook County Jail, has seen 149 confirmed cases of influenza since October 21, 2017. During the entire 2016-17 season, CCH saw 210 cases.

“We have seen high flu activity over the past five weeks,” said Dr. Kiran Joshi, Attending Physician, Cook County Department of Public Health (CCDPH), noting that the peak of the season is unpredictable.  “An influenza season typically lasts about 13 weeks so we only expect this to continue.”

There were more than 1,500 confirmed cases of influenza in the Chicagoland area in the last week of December 2017 alone, based on voluntary reports by local laboratories to CCDPH.

Officials encourage people to practice good hygiene to prevent disease transmission and to call their doctor if they have influenza symptoms. Unlike a cold, influenza symptoms can include a fever and body aches. Because influenza is a virus, antibiotics are not effective against the flu. Your doctor may prescribe antiretroviral medication to combat illness.

“It is not too late to get the influenza vaccine” said Dr. Sharon Welbel, Director of Hospital Epidemiology and Infection Control, CCH.  “People who have been vaccinated are more likely to experience milder symptoms if they do get the flu and have a reduced risk of severe complications. Research has shown that children who receive the influenza vaccination are significantly less likely to die due to influenza complications.”

CCH is screening all patients and visitors for influenza-like illness and visitor restrictions for individuals exhibiting symptoms of influenza and children under the age of 12 take effect today at Stroger and Provident Hospitals. Click here for details.

CCDPH provides weekly updates on influenza activity in the Chicagoland area. An interactive website with data is available here: ccdphcd.shinyapps.io/weekly_influenza_surveillance_beta/ and PDF reports are available here under influenza: cookcountypublichealth.org/data-reports/communicable-diseases