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Flu season seeing spike in DeKalb County

DeKalb County doctor says it’s not too late to get vaccinated

DeKALB – Flu season is spiking, and the strain that has popped up in the past two weeks is H1N1, the swine flu that first became prevalent 10 years ago.

According to a weekly flu report by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Illinois was among 24 states that saw an uptick in flu activity during the first week of January.

A report from Northwestern Medicine Kishwaukee Hospital showed a
4.8 percent spike during the last week in December in influenza-related illness activity, which is defined as “a fever greater than 100 degrees with a cough and/or a sore throat.”

Hospital officials expect the rate to increase in the coming weeks, and they said the local rate is on par with what the rest of the region is reporting, according to the Illinois Department of Public Health, which reported a 3.5 percent increase in flu activity statewide.

Dr. Bob Manam, an infectious disease specialist at Northwestern Medicine Kishwaukee Hospital, said this time of year historically is “peak season” for flu cases.

“January is the biggest time [for flu season],” Manam said. “There’s more travel [at the end of December], and people are home together.”

Although the H1N1 strain is the most prevalent this flu season, Manam said it’s not as severe as the 2009 outbreak, even though he said it is “fairly strong.”

If you’re already feeling sick, Manam said, you still have a few options.

“If a person is of normal health and they’re a young adult, feeling reasonably well, they can stay at home and use a lot of fluids,” Manam said. “If they know they’ve been exposed to the flu, they can get Tamiflu.”

The popular antiviral drug is available by prescription only. According to the CDC, Tamiflu can be used for treatment of influenza in children who are age 1 and older, and it comes in liquid or capsule form. If a child cannot swallow capsules, the CDC recommends opening the capsules and mixing the medication with a thick, sweetened liquid.

What about stopping the spread of the flu throughout a household full of people? Manam said people have a choice.

“You can see how it goes, keep everybody hydrated and well-rested, and they may or may not actually get the flu, or you can take extra precautions and give them Tamiflu before they have the flu,” Manam said, adding a caution at the end. “We’re not actually recommending that unless they have a serious medical problem, like severe asthma, cancer, cystic fibrosis or [are undergoing] immunotherapy.”

If a person is experiencing severe chest pain, an uncontrollable fever, a fast heart rate or trouble breathing, he or she should seek medical care, Manam said.

“What people should know is if the flu is extremely severe and they’re not feeling well, they should listen to their body and either talk to their physician or go to urgent care,” he said. “Sometimes [the flu] can be severe, and that’s the driving point because maybe people will say, ‘We’re not going to take any medicine because it’s a virus,’ but you have to know, there’s a little bit of a sixth sense – listen to your body.”

Manam also encouraged that residents get vaccinated.

“It is important to get vaccinated,” Manam said. “It’s not too late to get it.”

In fact, the DeKalb County Health Department is providing walk-in flu vaccinations at its clinic, 2550 N. Annie Glidden Road in DeKalb, for those who are 6 months old and older, said Cindy Graves, director of community health and prevention.

Graves also cleared up a common myth about the flu.

“Influenza, or flu, is a respiratory illness, sudden onset,” Graves said. “It is not what is commonly, mistakenly, called the ‘flu,’ which is gastrointestinal and includes vomiting and diarrhea.”

Manam said there are simple things you can do to prevent the spread of the flu or your chances of getting ill: Wash your hands frequently, hydrate, stay at home if you have a fever or cough, and check on people around you who are sick to make sure they don’t need extra medical attention.

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