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CDC Says Flu Season Has Reached Epidemic

Flu vaccine and a syringe are displayed on a table. (Photo by Robert Giroux/Getty Images)

Flu vaccine and a syringe are displayed on a table. (Photo by Robert Giroux/Getty Images)

CBS Chicago (con't)

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WINFIELD, Ill. (CBS) – The flu season is far from over, and as the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention declared this season an epidemic, physicians were urging people to take precautions against the flu virus.

“This is probably one of the worst flu seasons we’ve seen in close to a decade,” said Kevin Most, a physician at Central DuPage Hospital. “We’re seeing increasing numbers in our emergency rooms, we’re seeing increasing numbers in our convenient care that are actually blowing the number of patients that we’ve seen in these past couple months out of the water when we look historically how many patients have been in.”

State health officials said 368 people in Illinois have been admitted to hospital intensive care units with the flu this season, and 27 of them have died.

Most told WBBM Newsradio’s Dave Berner there’s a reason this flu season is so bad.

“We ended up seeing an early flu season this year, so if you think about what happens between Thanksgiving and Christmas – a lot of people traveling, a lot of people shopping, a lot of people together with parties – and you saw a vaccine that was very good, but not really taken by a lot of patients yet,” he said.

Most said flu numbers are still peaking. He noted several Chicago area hospitals have been so inundated with flu patients on some days, that they’ve had to start turning away patients.

“Some of the hospitals, their intensive care units are full, the hospitals are full, and we start to worry about the staff as well,” he said.

Some doctors have even run out of kits to test for the flu and have been diagnosing without them.

It’s not too late to get a flu shot, however.

“We know flu season will go for another couple months, so you still have a great opportunity,” Most said. “Get it and try to hide for a couple weeks.”

The vaccine typically takes a couple weeks to kick in.

Most said too many people are relying on last year’s flu shot to get them through this season, but that won’t work, because this is a different strain of flu.

“It’s a very strong, virulent strain. It’s in the vaccine. It wasn’t in the vaccine last year,” he said.