- Associated Press - Tuesday, December 9, 2014

CHICAGO (AP) - The top communicable disease official with Cook County’s health department says this year’s flu season is underway earlier than recent years, with the virus strain appearing stronger.

Dr. Michael Vernon says flu-related cases at Cook County hospitals lately have accounted for 2.68 percent of all visits to those emergency rooms. Last year at this time, that number was 1 percent.

He says the number of intensive-care unit admissions because of the flu over the past week has more than doubled, from 15 to 38. He says that suggests “we’re dealing with a fairly severe strain.”

Vernon says that’s cause for concern, but not for panic or alarm.

He recommends that people get vaccinated, believing that some protection is better than none.

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