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Swine song: H1N1 flu hitting hard

Vaccine takes 2 weeks to take effect

Published: Monday, Jan. 27, 2014 1:15 a.m. CDT

Achy, shaky, hot and cold? Didja get a flu shot? Didja?

“We’re seeing a lot of influenza, just like nationwide,” Lee County Health Department Administrator Cathy Ferguson said.

The same is true in Whiteside County, health department officials there said.

And like the rest of the nation, the H1N1, or swine flu strain, is back, Ferguson said.

Typical influenza hits infants and people older than 65 the hardest. H1N1, which caused a nationwide pandemic in 2009, tends to expand that pool to young adults, pregnant women, older children, and people with chronic diseases.

Although health officials are seeing about the usual number of cases for this time of year, they are seeing it in more people younger than 65, said Joan Saunders, Whiteside County’s head of infectious diseases.

Statewide, at least seven people, most in Cook County, have died this season, while 450 have been hospitalized, Illinois Department of Public Health spokeswoman Melaney Arnold said Thursday.

The flu has put at least a couple of people in the hospital in Lee County, Ferguson said. The state notifies her office of confirmed cases only when they’re bad enough to put the victim in ICU – the only cases required to be reported to the Department of Public Health, she said.

Those 450 cases are barely the tip of the iceberg, though, since most people suffer through the illness alone, many without seeing a doctor.

Although the season is nearly half over, it’s not too late to get immunized.

The Department of Public Health recommends anyone 6 months and older get a flu shot, since the more people vaccinated, the less likely it is to spread.

Vaccines, including the flu mist, still are available at the Lee County Health Department, Ferguson said.

Whiteside County, which has given more than 3,000 vaccines this season, is out, though, and so is advising people to go to their local pharmacies or physicians, Saunders said.

The vaccine takes about 2 weeks to take effect, so sooner is better than later.

And if you do get achy, shaky, hot and cold?

“Stay home!” Saunders said.

In Lee County

The Lee County Health Department, 309 S. Galena Ave. in Dixon, provides vaccines by appointment. You need not be a county reisdent.

The shot costs $12 to $25 for kids, depending on a few factors, and $25 for adults. FluMist, for ages 2 and older, also is $25.

Medicaid, Medicare and Medicare Advantage cards are accepted, as are some private health insurance companies.

Call 815-284-3371 for an appointment or more information.

About the flu

People at high risk for serious flu complications include those with underlying chronic medical conditions such as asthma, diabetes, heart disease, or neurological conditions; pregnant women; people younger than 5 or older than 65; and anyone with a weakened immune system.

This year, though, some who have been severely ill with complications have been younger people with no underlying health problems.

Symptoms include fever, cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, body aches, headache, chills and fatigue. Some people may have vomiting and diarrhea, but that is not typically associated with respiratory flu.

People with flu symptoms should stay home 24 hours after the fever is gone (without the use of a fever-reducing medicine). Antiviral drugs can make illness milder, shorten the length of illness, and prevent serious complications.

Flu vaccines are available from many doctors, local health departments, health clinics, pharmacies, and other health care providers.

For more information about flu vaccinations and availability, call your local health department or go to www.flu.gov/prevention-vaccination/vaccination/index.html and enter your ZIP code into the Flu Vaccine Finder tool.

To reduce the spread of flu, practice the 3 C’s:

Clean – Properly wash your hands frequently.

Cover – Cover your cough and sneeze.

Contain – Contain your germs by staying home if you are sick.

Source: Illinois Department of Public Health, www.idph.state.il.us/flu/index.htm

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