Metro-East News

Two dead from the flu in central Illinois

Two people have died of the flu in McLean County as of Wednesday.

McLean County Coroner Kathy Davis confirmed that two people have died of influenza A this week. One was a person in an assisted living facility, but the other was a 25-year-old, she told the Bloomington Pantograph.

This year’s influenza season is getting an early start and is anticipated to be worse than usual, according to the Centers for Disease Control. In recent weeks, the Litchfield School District had to cancel classes for two days after nearly a quarter of the student body was out side with the flu, and some hospitals are launching visitor restrictions due to the danger of infection. St. Elizabeth’s Hospital in O’Fallon warns that additional visiting restrictions may be enforced; Gateway Regional Medical Center asks that anyone with a fever or cold symptoms should stay home.

Medical professionals are urging anyone with flu symptoms to stay home and keep from infecting others. Anderson Hospital posted on social media this week about a University of Arizona student that found when someone comes to the office sick, it takes only four hours for surfaces like coffeepot handles, copy machine buttons and fridge doors to show traces of virus.

The flu killed more than 20 children in Illinois last year, and this year’s outbreak is predicted to be nastier than usual. The Illinois Department of Public Health reported as of Dec. 9 (the most recent data available), 68 people had been admitted to intensive care units for influenza, 20 of whom were admitted that week.

Nationally, the CDC reports that since Oct. 1, there have been at least eight children who have died of the flu, with 39 out of 54 jurisdictions reporting widespread flu cases.

This year’s vaccine may have been mismatched for the strains that are taking hold this year, according to a report published in the New England Journal of Medicine. However, medical experts say even a less effective vaccine is better than no vaccine at all for limiting the infection and recuperation time for the flu.

Elizabeth Donald: 618-239-2507, @BNDedonald