Lake County health officials are finding the number of seasonal flu cases being reported this year is substantially higher than this time last year, prompting officials to remind people to get a flu vaccine.
The health department’s weekly surveillance of the flu showed there was slight increase in the number of flu cases the department’s clinics reported. During the week of Dec. 2-8, 112 illnesses were reported and that number increased to 114 the following week, said Matt Knight, a nurse with the LCHD.
Lake County also monitors flu tests from area hospitals, which reported 20 positive tests during the week of Dec. 2-8, Knight said. Last week, the number went up to 38, he said. There have been a total of 43 positive flu tests since the season began in October.
While the number of cases remains relatively low, it’s a dramatic increase over last year when the health department had one case reported during the same time period, Knight said.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention received reports from 18 states about widespread geographical influenza activity for the week of Dec. 2-8 while only eight states report activity the week before, according to statistics.
Knight monitors the flu activity in the county, region, state and nation. It helps to know and helpful in stepping up preventative measures, Knight said.
Despite the strong start to the flu season, it is hard for health experts to predict how bad it will be, said Lisa Dallmeyer, a LCHD communicable disease specialist.
“We can’t predict (the severity) but certainly we can step up in terms of prevention measures,” Dallmeyer said.
“People need to be practicing prevention activities,” Dallmeyer said. “If they are sick, stay home, stay away from people who are ill and washing hands thoroughly. Good prevention methods keep things in control and keep (the flu) from spreading.”
The best prevention is getting a flu shot, she said.
“Our message is it’s never too late to get vaccinated,” Knight said.
It takes about two weeks for the body to build antibodies to provide protection against the flu, Dallmeyer said.
People should be careful during holiday gatherings with family and friends to protect themselves and others from the flu, Dallmeyer said.
While getting a flu shot is the best prevention, taking everyday precautions like washing your hands, sneezing into a tissue and throwing it away help too, the CDC site states. Another tip: don't touch your mouth, eyes or nose because the flu is spread both through the air and through surfaces, Dallmeyer said.