Deadly start to flu season in Rock Island County

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ROCK ISLAND - Rock Island County Coroner Brian Gustafson says at least three people have died this season from flu-related illness, and issued a grim reminder for people under the weather to take the illness seriously.

Related: Does cold weather really cause the flu to spread?

"The flu is real. People think, oh I just have the flu. People don't realize the flu can kill you. When it lasts three, four, five or six days and you're not getting any better, you become incredibly dehydrated and your electrolytes get way out of balance and your heart can't function," Gustafson said in an interview with WQAD-TV.

The victims who died were 60 years of age and older. All had pre-existing conditions and did not seek medical treatment when they contracted the flu.

"I signed one death certificate in November, one in December, and one today," he said.

"If you have the flu and it lasts for days at a time, give your doc a call. Go to the emergency room," Gustafson, a former nurse, said.

Genesis Hospital in Silvis alone reported it has 53 patients admitted with flu-related illness on Tuesday, January 9.