Coughs, fevers, chills, it doesn't matter it's only September the flu is here. Rockford-area hospitals are already seeing a spike in patients.
The centers for disease control says the flu season usually starts in October at the earliest. But local doctors say their emergency rooms are getting busy with patients of all ages.
"This year promises to be unusual as well because we are way before what we normally see influenza," says Dr. John Underwood. SwedishAmerican Hospital, emergency services director.
Dr. Underwood says last year the flu hit early then went away and popped back up in the spring. So far in this late summer Swedes has seen more than 100 flu cases. OSF St. Anthony Medical Center reports 24 cases.
"So far primarily we are seeing a lot of influenza B. Same symptoms but it's usually not as virile so the symptoms aren't as intense so it's milder. So you still get the low grade fever, cough, running nose and body aches," says Dr. Jason Harris, OSF St. Anthony Medical Center, epidemiologist.
Flu shots are already being offered from area health departments, pharmacies and hospitals. Doctors say now is the time to build up an immunity.
"Normally we don't start immunizations this early in the year. This year we are recommending it much earlier than normal. So if you haven't had your flu shot yet this year go get your flu shot," Dr. Underwood.
And experts can't emphasize enough it's really easy to spread the flu so take precautions so you don't make someone else sick who might have a hard time fighting it off.
"Definitely covering your cough, washing your hands and just stay home if you are ill," says Dr. Harris.
Last year, more than 20,000 children younger than 5 were so sick from the flu they had to go to the hospital. The CDC recommends flu shots as soon as possible. It says it takes at least 2 weeks to build up antibodies to protect against the virus. The Winnebago County Health Department is holding a shot clinic Saturday, September 14th, from 9 to noon at Heartland Church.
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