MT. VERNON — Flu cases are on the rise in Illinois this season and state and local health officials are urging the public to get vaccinated.
Locally, flu activity just recently began in Jefferson County. Late December and early January is the typical time period for when the virus first appears in this area.
“Our flu typically hits this time of year,” said Becky Brooks, director of nursing for the Jefferson County Health Department.
Brooks said she has not noticed any alarming trends in flu activity in the Mt. Vernon area. She was unaware of any flu-related hospitalizations or deaths in the county so far this season.
Still, the health department is recommending everyone 6 months or older get a flu shot, especially pregnant women, Brooks said.
“The flu vaccine is your first line of defense,” Brooks said.
The local health department no longer has any adult flu vaccine available, Brooks said. However, the department does still have vaccines for children.
The Vaccine For Children program at the health department is available to children 18 and under who are covered by Medicaid. Also, other children could qualify for the program if their insurance does not pay for the vaccine.
Brooks said adult flu shots are offered at local pharmacies and doctor’s offices, which is why the health department did not acquire more adult vaccines.
“There are plenty of places here in Mt. Vernon that people can go,” Brooks said.
Officials at Walgreens and Kroger Pharmacy said Wednesday their stores do have adult flu vaccines in stock.
CVS Pharmacy has the high dose vaccine for those 65 and older, but is out of the regular vaccine. Byrd-Watson Drug, the Medicine Shoppe and Lincolnshire Pharmacy do not have the vaccine.
According to the Illinois Department of Public Health, there have been 122 serious flu-related hospitalizations and six deaths in the state so far this season. IDPH officials expect these numbers to increase as winter continues.
Melaney Arnold, an IDPH spokesperson, said the vaccine remains the most effective way to guard against the flu virus.
“It’s not too late to get a flu shot and those who have not need to get one,” Arnold said.
The most common types of flu viruses this season have been the H1N1 viruses, which emerged in 2009 and caused a pandemic.
Younger adults and children, particularly those with chronic medical conditions or who were pregnant, were the hardest hit during the H1N1 outbreak, states an IDPH news release.
As a result, experts say young and middle-aged adults may be most affected by this season’s flu if H1N1 continues to circulate widely, the release states.
Flu symptoms include fever, cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, body aches, headache, chills and fatigue. Other less common symptoms are vomiting and diarrhea.
People with these symptoms should stay home until 24 hours after their fever is gone. They should also remember to wash their hands frequently and cover their coughs and sneezes.
Normal health department hours are 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday, with lunch closure from noon to 1 p.m.
The department also has “late days” on the second and fourth Thursdays of the month. The hours on these days are 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., with lunch closure from 1:30 p.m. to 2:30 p.m.
For more information on flu prevention, contact the health department at 244-7134. You can also visit www.flu.gov or www.idph.state.il.us.