CHAMPAIGN — The flu has started making its way around the area, and if that's not bad enough on the brink of the holidays, doctors are also seeing plenty of strep and pneumonia.
"We've been seeing a lot of people in general," said Dr. Tess Bailey, a Carle convenient care physician. "There's a lot of illness going around."
Flu typically starts to pick up in December in the U.S. — though its worst is usually still to come, with peak flu months hitting anytime from January through March.
Throughout Illinois, flu is at the regional level, which is the second-highest level of spread.
"It's not everywhere, but I can absolutely tell you it's in our community," Champaign-Urbana Public Health District Administrator Julie Pryde said Monday.
Locally, Carle doctors saw about 57 confirmed flu cases the first week of December, Bailey said.
Presence United Samaritans Medical Center, Danville, has had seven to eight confirmed flu cases in the past week or two, and its sister hospital in Urbana, Presence Covenant Medical Center, has had 22 confirmed cases since October, spokeswomen at those hospitals said.
For the first few weeks of December, the numbers of confirmed flu cases at Carle have been running behind those from last December, "so it's not so bad yet," Bailey said.
How to best avoid being one of these sick folks yourself?
Bailey and other health experts advise getting a flu shot if you haven't gotten one yet.
It takes two weeks for the vaccine's immunity to kick in, but people being vaccinated now will still be protecting themselves for peak flu season, said Brandon Meline, director of maternal and child health for the Champaign-Urbana Public Health District.
"Even if it's circulating, you want to get a flu shot," he said.
Symptoms of flu can include fever, coughing, sore throat, body aches, chills, fatigue, and a runny or stuffy nose. People with flu should stay home for 24 hours after their fever is gone without the use of fever-reducing medicine, according to the Illinois Department of Public Health.
Bailey also advises common-sense measures to help stay well: Wash your hands, avoid touching your face and eyes and stay away from people who are ill.
"If you are sick, stay home and keep it to yourself," she added.
Test your flu knowledge
True or false? (You will find the answers below.)
1. You can get the flu from the flu vaccine.
2. If you end up with the flu after you've gotten the flu shot, it will likely be a milder case.
3. Influenza can't kill you.
4. Flu shots are safe and advised for pregnant women.
5. Your flu shot from last year will continue to protect you this year.
Answers: 1. False; 2. True; 3. False; 4. True; 5. False.