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updated: 1/7/2013 2:17 PM

Be a flu fighter and get vaccinated

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David Hass

DUPAGE COUNTY--Due to widespread influenza activity in DuPage County and throughout Illinois, the DuPage County Health Department (DCHD) is encouraging residents to get a flu shot now to protect themselves for the rest of the flu season.

To reduce the spread of influenza and other contagious diseases, it is always important to practice the following:

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• Clean --properly wash hands frequently or use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer

• Cover --cover your nose and mouth with a tissue or with your sleeve (not your hand) when you cough or sneeze

• Contain --contain your germs by staying home if you are sick, and try to avoid close contact with people who are sick

As of December 29, 38 intensive care unit (ICU)-hospitalized cases due to influenza have been reported in DuPage County, compared to eight ICU-hospitalized cases for the entire 2011-2012 flu season. No flu-related deaths have been reported in DuPage County. The Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) reported 147 ICU-hospitalized influenza cases in Illinois, including six deaths, as of December 29.

Seven influenza outbreaks have been reported in DuPage County long-term care facilities this season. Guidance from the IDPH has been shared with these facilities and reviewed for control and prevention measures. As of December 29, 34 influenza institutional outbreaks have been reported statewide this season.

Influenza-like illness (ILI) activity has been widespread throughout Illinois since mid-December. Visits to emergency rooms due to ILI and student absenteeism due to ILI also have been increasing, but schools were not in session during the last reporting period.

If you haven't already gotten your flu shot this season, you can be vaccinated right now and be protected through the remainder of the flu season, which typically runs through May with seasonal flu activity usually peaking this month, in February or later. It takes about two weeks after receiving the vaccine for antibodies to build up in the body, so it is important to get the vaccine as soon as possible. For medical questions or concerns, contact your physician.

All persons--six months and older--should get a seasonal flu shot. Flu vaccine is readily available at physician offices, pharmacies, grocery stores, quick care clinics and other locations throughout DuPage County.

DuPage County influenza surveillance reports are available at www.dupagehealth.org/data and Illinois influenza surveillance reports at http://www.idph.state.il.us/flu/fluupdate12-13.htm.

For more information on the DuPage County Health Department, follow us on Twitter @DuPageHD or become a fan on Facebook.

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