CHICAGO (CBS) — The flu season in the Chicago area is hitting harder than in the last couple of years.

As an employee at a southwest suburban hospital put it, “Triage is knee-deep in flu and pneumonia patients.”

Hyperbole – but that hospital isn’t alone.

Rush Medical Center is also reporting a lot of flu patients so far this season.

“With only a couple days into the current week, we’ve seen 17 confirmed cases,” said Mary Alice Lavin, director of infection prevention and control at Rush. “Last week we saw 55, and the week before we saw 55.”

Lavin says 55 cases in one week and 55 the next were somewhat of a surprise.

“In two back-to-back weeks, that’s probably the highest we’ve seen since the 2009 flu season,” she said.

Lavin says this flu season started early. The hope is that it will end early.

Doctors say the best protection is still a flu shot, and it’s not too late to get one.

“Keeping in mind it takes two weeks for the vaccine to be effective,” Lavin says. “So the sooner they get vaccinated, the sooner they’ll be fully protected.”

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