Flu season comes early to the Quad Cities

This is an archived article and the information in the article may be outdated. Please look at the time stamp on the story to see when it was last updated.

It's being called "the earliest flu season in a decade," with 80 percent of the country already reporting severe symptoms.

Illinois Public Health Director Dr. LaMar Hasbrouck issued a statement Wednesday afternoon, calling this year's flu strain "more severe, with more hospitalizations and deaths."

Here in the Quad Cities, though, officials say so far, it's nothing they can't handle.

"It's just the timing of it. There's really nothing different about it this year," said Genesis Infection Prevention Coordinator Lisa Caffery.

Genesis, like hospitals across the country, is seeing flu season hit earlier than usual. Trinity's seen a similar uptick in the past two weeks, reporting 35 cases in its emergency rooms since New Year's Eve.

"Usually in the Quad City area, flu starts to peak somewhere in March. So, as the numbers are starting to climb earlier, we may also see flu start to peak earlier," said Roma Taylor, clinical services coordinator with the Scott County Health Department.

But is the worst still to come? Healthcare providers say that's up to Mother Nature.

"I don't know what that means, if for the next two weeks we'll have a lot more activity or if it'll slow down. It's hard to say, because you can never guess with the flu. It does what it wants to do, but it would appear that we're probably in for a long couple of weeks here," said Caffery.

Caffery and Taylor also agree that the best prevention is a flu shot, and it's not too late to get one.

"It does take about two weeks to become effective, so if you get it now, you still have plenty of opportunity for protection for the rest of the flu season, because influenza can last well into the spring. We can see cases into May," said Caffery.

In addition to getting vaccinated, experts say washing your hands frequently and staying home when you're sick are the simplest ways to keep you and your family healthy this winter.