Flu cases continue to increase in Kane County, as nearly half of all emergency room visits for school-aged kids, teens and young adults are for flulike illnesses, according to data from the Kane County Health Department.
The most recent data from the health department, which was for the week of Nov. 20-26, showed that just over 44% of all ER visits for people between the ages of 5-24 were for flulike illnesses, while 25% of all ER visits for people between the ages of 25-64 were for flulike illnesses.
There were 13 flu patients admitted to intensive care units in Kane County hospitals between Nov. 20-26, while 36% of all flu tests came back positive.
“We are continuing to see elevated levels of respiratory illness across Kane County. This includes COVID, influenza and RSV,” Kane County Health Department Director Michael Isaacson said in an email. “This increase in activity is to be expected after gathering for the holidays without many of the precautions that were observed over the past few years.”
Isaacson said that the number of flu patients is “significantly higher” than at the same time last year, not only in Kane County, but across the state and country. He said that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has classified flu activity as “very high” in Kane County.
Dr. Jay Liu, an infectious disease physician at Northwestern Medicine Delnor Hospital, said that while Delnor’s ER has seen an increase in flu patients, most are not admitted to the inpatient unit. He said although the hospital has been busy recently, it’s nothing like what hospitals saw earlier in the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Flu is definitely up, but not like the peak of COVID,” he said. “We’re not seeing as many critically ill people with the flu this year like we did from COVID, which has a higher mortality rate. There is no comparison to the COVID peak, which was way worse. We had more patients and they were sicker.”
Liu said he’s not sure why there are more cases of the flu this early in the season.
“It’s hard to tell if flu cases have peaked, but it seems like it’s higher earlier,” he said. “The question is ‘why?’ It’s not entirely clear, but it could be that this particular variant is more contagious, or could just be a normal cycling of the virus.”
In addition to the flu, coronavirus cases are beginning to creep up. Isaacson said that Kane County has recently been averaging about 60 new COVID-19 cases a day, but as recently as last week, 165 cases were reported in one day.
“Almost 9% of reported COVID tests in Kane County are positive and that does not include home tests that most people are using,” he said. “Even though most cases of COVID will be mild, there are many in our community who will become seriously ill if infected. It is wonderful to be with friends and family over the holidays, but please stay home if you are sick and get vaccinated. Both COVID and Influenza vaccines are important interventions to protect yourself this winter.”
And while COVID cases are starting to increase, luckily, there aren’t as many “very sick” people with the virus this year, Liu said.
“Between the different variants, increasing vaccination rate and immunity from natural infections, we’re not seeing as many sick people,” he said. “And we have outpatient drugs that people can take. It feels to me that COVID is a little less deadly and people have more protection from immunity and also have available treatments.”