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Winnebago County Health Department began its annual seasonal flu surveillance in October. In the past month, influenza like illnesses (ILI) and influenza cases have increased dramatically. Although seasonal influenza is not a reportable disease to the Winnebago County Health Department, numerous clinical and long term care facilities, and schools voluntarily report influenza to aid and identifying trends in our community, according to Kara Biery, Winnebago County Health Department Communicable Disease Supervisor. Influenza A, primarily strains H1N1 and H3N2, along with Influenza B are being reported. The Winnebago County Health Department can track influenza like illness (ILI) using a syndromic surveillance system, utilizing emergency room data from two health systems. In addition, two local sentinel sites have been identified to report influenza like illness (ILI) visits to the CDC.
“If you haven’t had your annual flu shot, it’s not too late to be vaccinated.  Once vaccinated, it takes about two weeks for antibodies to develop in the body and provide protection against influenza virus infection,” said Winnebago County Health Department’s Health Promotion and Protection Director, Dee Dunnett.
Influenza is a contagious disease. Most experts believe that flu viruses spread mainly by droplets made when people with flu cough, sneeze or talk. You may be able to pass on the flu to someone else before you know you are sick, as well as while you are sick. Most healthy adults may be able to infect others beginning 1 day before symptoms develop and up to 5 to 7 days after becoming sick. Some people, especially young children and people with weakened immune systems, might be able to infect others for an even longer time. Symptoms include fever, sore throat, cough, chills, runny or stuffy nose, muscle or body aches, headache, and fatigue.
Although most people will usually recover from flu without complications, the virus poses a more serious risk to:
  • Children younger than 5 years, 
  • People 65 years of age and older,
  • Pregnant women, and
  • People with certain long-term medical conditions, such as: asthma, diabetes, heart disease, neurological conditions , blood disorders, morbid obesity, kidney and liver disorders, HIV, or AIDS, and cancer. 
For people in the high risk group, getting the flu can mean more serious illness, including hospitalization, or it can mean a worsening of existing chronic conditions.
Another good way to prevent the spread of germs and to prevent influenza is to follow the “Three C’s” 
            Clean your hands - after using the restroom and before eating
Cover your cough - by coughing or sneezing into your elbow or into a tissue
Contain your germs - by staying home if you are feeling sick

If you are sick with flu-like illness, CDC recommends that you stay home for at least 24 hours after your fever is gone.
 
Flu vaccine is available through the Winnebago County Health Department, and local health care providers,” said Sue Fuller, Winnebago County Health Department Public Information Officer. To schedule an appointment for a flu shot at the Winnebago County Health Department, call 815-720-4264. For more information on the influenza, visit the Winnebago County Health Department website @ www.wchd.org.
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