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Peak flu season yet to hit Chicago; Holiday travel could increase risk

Monday, December 23, 2013

Traveling for the holidays could put you at greater risk of catching the flu. Health officials say the peak flu season has yet to hit the Chicago area, but that's not the case in other parts of the country. There are things you can do to help ward off the flu.

There is always the common sense approach, which includes sleep, healthy eating, and washing your hands. Beyond that, doctors insist the best way to prevent the flu is getting the shot. Yet, the vaccine remains controversial for many people.

There are plenty of flu shots to go around, yet, here at Walgreens, there haven't been many takers lately.

"We gave out many, many flu shots this season, but it has slowed down," said Nancy Salmon, pharmacist, Walgreens.

While other parts of the country have been hit hard, the Chicago area has yet to see a big flu outbreak. Medical professionals say it is still early for that to happen and it's not too late to get a flu shot, something doctors say remains the best way to prevent the flu.

"Why sure, I got the flu shot, the best thing I ever did," said Clarence Bowers.

"I don't think it is something that is safe," said Ismal Perez.

"I think it makes you sick and I don't want to get something that makes you sick," said Marie Nolen.

Doctors insist it is big myth that flu shots make you sick. Besides the shot, you can prevent the flu by constantly your washing hands.The virus spreads when people cough or sneeze into the air.

"We tend to touch our faces 100 times a day, and that's how we can introduce the virus into our bodies," said Dr. Alexander Tomich, Rush University Medical Center.

Tomich is the director of Infection, Prevention and Control at Rush University Medical Center. He says his hospital is beginning to see more cases of the flu and it will likely increase with people who have traveled over the holidays. He says if you are flying, keep the overhead air vent on above your seat to keep the air circulating.

"If you're going to be staying in a hotel, buy some disinfectant wipes so that you can wipe down the high-touch surfaces such as doorknobs, the telephone, the alarm clock, the remote control," said Dr. Tomich.

Medical professionals says even if you are traveling this week or next, a flu shot won't protect you from the flu while you're gone because the vaccine takes about two weeks to work.

Symptoms of the flu are similar to a cold, except, the flu also carries with it body aches and a fever, besides a cough and runny nose.

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