Terri Olson is expecting to see more cases of the flu in Kendall County this winter due in part to the recent bitter cold weather.
Olson, the community health director for the county health department, said there have been more flu cases reported in the county over the past few weeks, especially in schools and senior living facilities.
The flu virus can be spread through airborne respiratory droplets that result when someone sneezes, coughs or talks, according to Olson.
Dr. Amanda Mathias-Rajendran, D.O., of the Rush-Copley Medical Group, noted the flu virus can also be spread from inanimate objects that people come into contact with, such as doorknobs, utensils and clothing. Mathias-Rajendran said a typical flu season can last from October until March.
The Illinois Department of Public Health rated the geographic spread of the flu as “widespread” as of Dec. 16. In the west Chicago region, two influenza outbreaks were recorded in that same week of measurement ending on Dec. 16, and 11 outbreaks have been recorded in the flu season so far.
“I think we’re going to see more of it this year,” Olson said.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, seasonal flu activity has accounted for between 9.2 million and 95.6 million illnesses since 2010.
To prevent the flu, Mathias-Rajendran recommends people get flu shots, describing it as “really the only direct way” to avoid the flu.
She also suggested avoiding those who are sick, covering your mouth when coughing, and washing hands with soap and water or using hand sanitizer. Due to the low humidity found in cold weather, studies have shown flu is more able to survive and has an easier time spreading from person to person.
The flu, Mathias-Rajendran said, can cause dangerous side effects for some, most commonly young children and the elderly, as well as unforeseen consequences. A study that came out in 2016, she noted, showed that those who do not receive treatment for the flu are at a higher risk for a cardiovascular episode in the following year. The CDC reports that those who have heart disease or have had a stroke are at a higher risk for developing complications from the flu.
Mathias-Rajendran also warned against the spread of the H1N1 (swine flu) virus, which first came onto the public health radar in 2009. The illness is spread in the same way as the common flu virus, and is capable of causing more serious health issues for some.
Symptoms of the flu include feverish feeling/chills, a fever, cough, sore throat, runny/stuffy nose, muscle or body aches, headaches, fatigue, and (in the case of children) vomiting or diarrhea.
The county health department is currently offering walk-in flu shot clinics for adults on the second Tuesday evening of each month, but will work with those who come in at any time to accommodate them. Olson said the public can receive a flu shot through March, the time the flu season typically ends.
The county health department building is at 811 John St., Yorkville. For information, call 630-553-9100.
The website vaccinefinder.org allows visitors to type in their zip code or place of residence to find the nearest vaccine distribution centers.