The flu is a widespread problem that's taxing Kane County's emergency rooms, often unnecessarily, according to health officials.
The latest statistics show more than 5 percent of visits to hospital emergency rooms in the county are for flu-like illness. That's down from a high of nearly 9 percent of all emergency room visits to close out 2012, but health officials said numbers above 5 percent are still high even for this time of year. The 5 percent is also higher than the statewide percentage for flu-related emergency home visits of 3.7 percent.
Health officials are urging residents to get flu shots. Kane County Board Chairman Chris Lauzen recently attempted to inspire residents to get flu shots by rolling up his own sleeve and braving the needle.
"The flu is a serious illness, but it also is a preventable illness," Lauzen said. "By getting your shot and following the 'Three C's -- Cover Your Cough, Clean Your Hands, and Contain Your Illness' -- we will go a long way toward stopping its spread," Lauzen said.
The youngest county residents, ages 4 or younger, are accounting for about one-third of the flu cases during the most recent week tracked by the county. That follows a statewide trend of babies and toddlers making the most flu-related emergency room visits.
On the other end of the age spectrum, there have been eight different flu outbreaks reported at local long-term care and assisted living facilities during this flu season. A total of 13 flu patients have required intensive care treatment while at the hospital, according to the health department. Five of those came during the most recent reporting period. Statewide, there have been at least 20 deaths stemming from flu-related illnesses, according to the Illinois Public Health Department.
Such severe outcomes stemming from the flu are relatively rare, health officials said. Illinois Public Health Director Dr. LaMar Hasbrouck advises that only people with severe respiratory illness who have trouble breathing need to visit a hospital emergency room. The majority of people suffering from the flu simply need to stay home, rest and let the flu run its course.
Find out where you can get a flu shot by clicking here.