CHAMPAIGN — If you haven't gotten a flu shot yet, no more procrastinating, health experts urge.
Area hospitals and doctors are seeing sick people by the dozens as flu has become widespread in Illinois and is expected to continue spreading.
Unvaccinated young people could be more vulnerable, since the type of flu most commonly making people sick this season is the H1N1 virus that emerged in 2009 and launched a pandemic.
Younger adults and children were hit harder by the 2009 H1N1 virus compared to adults age 65 and older.
The flu has put 122 patients in hospital intensive care units across the state, and there have been six intensive care unit flu-related deaths, according to the Illinois Department of Public Health.
Local health providers — including Christie Clinic, Carle convenience care centers, Frances Nelson Health Center and local hospitals — are all seeing an upswing in patients with flu symptoms, their officials say.
Half the patients seeing one of the providers at Frances Nelson Tuesday had flu-like illness, Nancy Greenwalt, executive director of Promise Healthcare said.
This is classic flu, with cases ranging from mild to more severe ones that are keeping patients home in bed for a week or two and moving into secondary bacterial infections, according to Carle's Senior Infection Preventionist Daniel Bronson-Lowe.
"We have people with fever, cough, sore throat, headaches, fatigue, muscle ache," he said. "It's not fun when it happens."
The University of Illinois McKinley Health Center gave out flu shots to 11,500 of its 44,000 students before winter break, about the highest number of vaccinations in several years, but will be promoting more flu shots when students return later this month, Director Dr. Robert Palinkas said.
"We plan to continue giving flu shots well into the end of this month and probably even into February," he said. "For us, the flu season will extend into March and sometime even into late March, so getting a flu shot would still be of value to them."
Greenwalt said doctors are saying the flu shot is effective, and Palinkas concurs. It's a good match for what's in circulation, he said.
"If people haven't gotten their flu shots it's still not too late," he said. "There will still be a lot more cases, both at the University of Illinois and all over."
Beyond getting a flu shot, Bronson-Lowe urges everyone to take precautions by washing hands, covering up coughing and staying home if they're sick.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention was reporting flu widespread in about two dozen states, including both Illinois and Indiana.
Presence United Samaritans Medical Center has had 26 patients test positive for the flu at its emergency room since Saturday and three patients were admitted to the hospital, spokeswoman Gretchen Yordy said. Its sister hospital, Presence Covenant Medical Center has admitted nine flu patients in the past week, and had 13 more come for treatment at its emergency room, spokeswoman Gina Marsh said.