- Associated Press - Thursday, January 7, 2016

CHICAGO (AP) - Health officials say reports of influenza are down this winter in Illinois compared with recent years.

Data from the Illinois Department of Public Health show that that from Dec. 20 to Dec. 26, there were 49 flu-related intensive care unit admissions and two outbreaks. During roughly the same time last year, there were 323 ICU admissions and 70 outbreaks statewide.

December’s higher-than-average temperatures helped keep the flu season in check, the Chicago Tribune (https://trib.in/1Z84Hn0 ) reported. Health officials say flu reports are down in part because the influenza virus lives longer in the cold.

“We know that the virus itself does live longer when it’s colder or when it’s dry out,” said Allison Arwady, chief medical officer for the Chicago Department of Public Health. “The idea is, when it’s milder, the agent is not living as long.”

Arwady said flu cases also tend to be more prevalent amid cold weather because people tend to congregate indoors, allowing germs to be spread.

Flu season had already peaked by this time in Chicago in the last three years, when conditions were colder. But state and local health officials say it’s expected to peak this year in January or February, following a more typical trend.

According to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, this season’s flu vaccine seems a good match for the virus going around based on data so far. Local health officials say there hasn’t been a surge in people getting vaccinated, suggesting that vaccination rates aren’t behind the reduction in flu cases so far. People should still get flu shots, health officials say.

“We just haven’t seen the peak that we are expecting yet,” Arwady said. “But everything we know about flu does suggest it is going to get worse from here.”

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Information from: Chicago Tribune, https://www.chicagotribune.com


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