Influenza has officially reached epidemic levels in the U.S., making this winter unsettlingly atypical. There have been 121 influenza hospitalizations in Chicago between Sept. 30 and Jan. 5, according to a report from the Chicago Department of Public Health (CDHP), almost twice as much as last year.
The Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) reported that an influenza-like illness (IFL) has swept aggressively through Illinois causing 150 ICU hospitalizations and six flu-related deaths from October through December. The high level of flu-related illnesses has caused an increase in patients in ER rooms, resulting in hospitals rerouting patients to other hospitals and advising only severe respiratory illness for the emergency department, IDPH Director Dr. LaMar Hasbrouck said in a press release.
Rocio Isaac, a senior studying public relations at DePaul, recently recovered from her two-week bout of the flu.
“I had a really bad cold, fever and loss of appetite,” she said. “I think my nephew passed it to me, and I got it, and then it went through my whole family.”
While Isaac’s family exhibited symptoms of the flu within the same week, it does not always have a quick domino effect.
Flu-like symptoms may not occur for up to a week after being infected. It can transfer through something as simple as an elevator button or a public computer, according to Kim Amer, an associate professor of nursing at DePaul.
To prevent becoming infected, the CDPH encourages everyone over the age of six months get vaccinated. But according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the vaccine this year is 62 percent effective, meaning you should take additional steps to remain healthy.
Hydration and sufficient rest boost the immune system and can help you avoid being infected with illness. There’s also the 15-second rule for washing your hands.
“When you wash your hands, sing one round of the birthday song or ‘Yankee Doodle Dandy,'” Amer said. “Rinsing your hands is not going to do it. It seems like common sense or logical, but a lot of people don’t really wash their hands.”
Cindy Summers, interim vice president for Student Affairs, has taken precautions to communicate with Health Services to monitor the flu on campus.
“We do not have a high number that was self-reported,” Summers said. “We encourage the campus community to inform us, and we’ll know if students need to step away from classes.”
The university alerted the campus in an email sent Jan. 8 from Robert Janis, vice president of facilities operations at DePaul. Ironically, Janis was unable to be reached at his office because he was out with the flu.