The flu continues to spread rapidly across central and southern Kane County, but area hospitals report they are able to keep up with the number of cases.
"Our emergency room has seen overall volumes up 30 percent in the past few weeks," said Dr. Mark Daniels, vice president of medical affairs for Delnor Hospital in Geneva. "The staff has estimated that about 10 percent of everybody they are seeing have flu-like symptoms. But most of the people who are presented to the emergency room don't need to be hospitalized. People who are showing up at the hospital have other health problems."
Those numbers are consistent with what the Kane County Health Department is seeing. The department is reporting that about 8.94 percent of hospital emergency room visits between Dec. 23 to 29 were for influenza-like illnesses. That data is the latest surveillance data available from the department.
The flu is hitting earlier and harder than usual. The Illinois Department of Public Health is reporting that from the beginning of October through the end of December, almost 150 people were admitted to hospital intensive units throughout the state with flu-like illness, compared to two ICU hospitalizations at this time last year.
Illinois is not alone in its flu activity. Forty-one states are reporting widespread geographic flu activity.
There have been six-flu related deaths in the state, compared to none last year. Kane County has not reported any flu-related deaths this flu season, nor has DuPage County, Daniels said.
"Last year was a non-event in terms of the flu season," he said.
As a result, Daniels said people might have waited longer to get a flu vaccine this year, which could be a factor adding to the severity of this flu season. But Daniels said the best defense against getting the flu is a flu shot, and he urged everyone to get vaccinated.
"If you are sick, stay home," he said.
Other Kane County hospitals are seeing a high amount of flu activity.
"We are close to capacity, but not at capacity," said Barb Douglas, director of emergency and trauma services at Presence Mercy Medical Center in Aurora. "People may have to wait longer than they typically do. It depends on the day."
As an example of how much worse this year's flu season is, 8 percent to 9 percent of patients coming into the hospital's emergency room have flu-like symptoms, Douglas said.
"Last year, it never got above 5 percent," she said.