As anticipated, an elevated number of influenza cases have been circulating the Bloomington-Normal area since the holiday season.
Pamela Bierbaum, infection specialist at Advocate BroMenn Medical Center, said this recent trend is a part of the traditional seasonal influenza increases that occurs annually. The peak of the flu season can vary between December through February.
Dr. Jean Swearingen, medical director at Student Health Services (SHS), said influenza usually begins in the southern states and spreads northward over a steady period of time.
“Every year when it starts circulating, the spread can be tracked as it moves forward,” Bierbaum said.
Two influenza patients have been admitted to the Critical Care Unit, which were both reported to the McLean County Health Department and the Illinois Department of Health (IDPH).
Bierbaum said there have been 80 positive influenza tests this season, which is comparable to last year’s numbers.
All upper respiratory infections, such as colds and bronchitis, have also been frequently diagnosed over the past few weeks, Bierbaum said.
Swearingen said she expects to see some influenza cases appear on campus and reported to SHS due to the recent uprise in the state.
SHS began offering free flu shots to students last fall, and will continue to do so as long as supplies last.
This year’s flu shot protects against H1N1, which typically affects people 40 years old and younger.
Bloomington-Normal health institutions like Advocate BroMenn have been using preventative methods to avoid further spreading of the season’s common illnesses.
“In the hospital, we separate ‘sick’ people from ‘non-symptomatic’ people in waiting areas,” Bierbaum explained. “Patients with influenza are placed in special precautions while admitted.”
Along with distributing flu shots to students if they decide to take advantage of the free service, Student Health Services also posted information on its website regarding flu prevention and treatment.
Bierbaum and Swearingen said individuals can prevent retracting influenza by maintaining their immune systems and practicing good health habits.
Some of the habits Bierbaum and Swearingen suggest Bloomington-Normal residents begin to develop include avoiding close contact with sick people, staying home if you are ill, covering your mouth and nose with a tissue when coughing and sneezing, washing hands often and, of course, getting plenty of sleep, eating healthy, drinking water and frequently cleaning touched surfaces.
Swearingen stresses the importance of getting the flu shot as well as avoiding smoking and consuming too much alcohol.
“In the end, it is up to the individuals to prevent spread of influenza,” Swearingen said.
For more information on how to prevent a trip to SHS this flu season, visit HealthServices.IllinoisState.edu.