Wednesday, February 27, 2008
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Seasonal Illness on the Rise

Reports Indicate Widespread Flu and Colds

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[February 27, 2008]  It happens about this time every year. It doesn't matter if you are visiting in the grocery store, the beauty parlor or the coffee shop, you've probably heard someone telling about the seasonal sicknesses that are going around.

Regional, state and local reports indicate influenza and upper respiratory illnesses officially are widespread for the past three weeks. Reports indicate that the illnesses are not only spreading in Illinois and surrounding states, but have reached the top measurement of "widespread" in 48 other states as well.

This year's illnesses have a wide range of symptoms, some rather severe, which include fevers, blisters in the mouth, difficult-to-get-rid-of coughs, congestion and extreme fatigue.

Workplaces and schools are seeing more illness-related absences. Lincoln Community High School nurse Diane Stephenson said that flu and cold symptoms have increased over the last two weeks.

Abraham Lincoln Memorial Hospital's infectious disease control nurse, Karen Cluver, said that the hospital is seeing a lot of people coming in for testing, and a lot of patients are coming into the hospital through the emergency room. The elderly are the most affected. There is a lot of influenza type A being found, she said.

While the flu that is going around now was not the one in the vaccine for this year, some physicians are saying that the vaccine may have helped more than if you didn't get the shot. Everyone should still get vaccinated each year, Cluver said.

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The CDC follows reports of influenzalike illness and acute respiratory illness -- in other words, flu and cold -- which commonly peak at the start of March and end about the first week of May each year. Charts created from lab test results and from reports by residential institutions and medical facilities indicate that this year's season is at its peak, and compared with past years, peaking on the high side.

Some simple actions may protect you and your family from illness and help reduce the spread of these highly communicable illnesses.

  • Parents should remind their children to wash their hands frequently and cover their mouths when they cough or sneeze.

  • You can help protect our elderly and other immune-compromised individuals by avoiding contact with them. Postpone your visit while you have symptoms.

  • Practice good hygiene, and sneeze or cough into your sleeve.

  • Disinfect commonly touched surfaces: knobs and handles, phones, keyboards...


Weekly surveillance chart and interpretations:

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