WBEZ | flu http://www.wbez.org/tags/flu Latest from WBEZ Chicago Public Radio en Health officials say Illinois flu deaths up to 58 http://www.wbez.org/news/health-officials-say-illinois-flu-deaths-58-105153 <p><p>SPRINGFIELD, Ill. &mdash; State health officials say Illinois flu activity continues to be high in a season where the virus struck earlier than usual.</p><p>Illinois Department of Public Health spokeswoman Melaney Arnold said Friday that 534 people have been admitted to hospital intensive care units with the flu this season and 58 have died.</p><p>She says all but one of the people who died were age 50 or older.</p><p>This year&#39;s main flu strain tends to make people sicker, and public health officials continue to encourage people to get vaccinated.</p><p>Flu typically includes a fever and respiratory problems such as cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose. It can be accompanied by head and body aches and fatigue. Most people recover in one to two weeks, but some develop complications such as pneumonia.</p></p> Fri, 25 Jan 2013 13:50:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/health-officials-say-illinois-flu-deaths-58-105153 Hospitals crack down on workers refusing flu shots http://www.wbez.org/news/hospitals-crack-down-workers-refusing-flu-shots-104884 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//main-images/AP090901027160.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Patients can refuse a flu shot. Should doctors and nurses have that right, too? That is the thorny question surfacing as U.S. hospitals increasingly crack down on employees who won&#39;t get flu shots, with some workers losing their jobs over their refusal.</p><p>&quot;Where does it say that I am no longer a patient if I&#39;m a nurse,&quot; wondered Carrie Calhoun, a longtime critical care nurse in suburban Chicago who was fired last month after she refused a flu shot.</p><p>Hospitals&#39; get-tougher measures coincide with an earlier-than-usual flu season hitting harder than in recent mild seasons. Flu is widespread in most states, and at least 20 children have died.</p><p>Most doctors and nurses do get flu shots. But in the past two months, at least 15 nurses and other hospital staffers in four states have been fired for refusing, and several others have resigned, according to affected workers, hospital authorities and published reports.</p><p>In Rhode Island, one of three states with tough penalties behind a mandatory vaccine policy for health care workers, more than 1,000 workers recently signed a petition opposing the policy, according to a labor union that has filed suit to end the regulation.</p><p>Why would people whose job is to protect sick patients refuse a flu shot? The reasons vary: allergies to flu vaccine, which are rare; religious objections; and skepticism about whether vaccinating health workers will prevent flu in patients.</p><p>Dr. Carolyn Bridges, associate director for adult immunization at the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, says the strongest evidence is from studies in nursing homes, linking flu vaccination among health care workers with fewer patient deaths from all causes.</p><p>&quot;We would all like to see stronger data,&quot; she said. But other evidence shows flu vaccination &quot;significantly decreases&quot; flu cases, she said. &quot;It should work the same in a health care worker versus somebody out in the community.&quot;</p><p>Cancer nurse Joyce Gingerich is among the skeptics and says her decision to avoid the shot is mostly &quot;a personal thing.&quot; She&#39;s among seven employees at IU Health Goshen Hospital in northern Indiana who were recently fired for refusing flu shots. Gingerich said she gets other vaccinations but thinks it should be a choice. She opposes &quot;the injustice of being forced to put something in my body.&quot;</p><p>Medical ethicist Art Caplan says health care workers&#39; ethical obligation to protect patients trumps their individual rights.</p><p>&quot;If you don&#39;t want to do it, you shouldn&#39;t work in that environment,&quot; said Caplan, medical ethics chief at New York University&#39;s Langone Medical Center. &quot;Patients should demand that their health care provider gets flu shots &mdash; and they should ask them.&quot;</p><p>For some people, flu causes only mild symptoms. But it can also lead to pneumonia, and there are thousands of hospitalizations and deaths each year. The number of deaths has varied in recent decades from about 3,000 to 49,000.</p><p>A survey by CDC researchers found that in 2011, more than 400 U.S. hospitals required flu vaccinations for their employees and 29 hospitals fired unvaccinated employees.</p><p>At Calhoun&#39;s hospital, Alexian Brothers Medical Center in Elk Grove Village, Ill., unvaccinated workers granted exemptions must wear masks and tell patients, &quot;I&#39;m wearing the mask for your safety,&quot; Calhoun says. She says that&#39;s discriminatory and may make patients want to avoid &quot;the dirty nurse&quot; with the mask.</p><p>The hospital justified its vaccination policy in an email, citing the CDC&#39;s warning that this year&#39;s flu outbreak was &quot;expected to be among the worst in a decade&quot; and noted that Illinois has already been hit especially hard. The mandatory vaccine policy &quot;is consistent with our health system&#39;s mission to provide the safest environment possible.&quot;</p><p>The government recommends flu shots for nearly everyone, starting at age 6 months. Vaccination rates among the general public are generally lower than among health care workers.</p><p>According to the most recent federal data, about 63 percent of U.S. health care workers had flu shots as of November. That&#39;s up from previous years, but the government wants 90 percent coverage of health care workers by 2020.</p><p>The highest rate, about 88 percent, was among pharmacists, followed by doctors at 84 percent, and nurses, 82 percent. Fewer than half of nursing assistants and aides are vaccinated, Bridges said.</p><p>Some hospitals have achieved 90 percent but many fall short. A government health advisory panel has urged those below 90 percent to consider a mandatory program.</p><p>Also, the accreditation body over hospitals requires them to offer flu vaccines to workers, and those failing to do that and improve vaccination rates could lose accreditation.</p><p>Starting this year, the government&#39;s Centers for Medicare &amp; Medicaid Services is requiring hospitals to report employees&#39; flu vaccination rates as a means to boost the rates, the CDC&#39;s Bridges said. Eventually the data will be posted on the agency&#39;s &quot;Hospital Compare&quot; website.</p><p>Several leading doctor groups support mandatory flu shots for workers. And the American Medical Association in November endorsed mandatory shots for those with direct patient contact in nursing homes; elderly patients are particularly vulnerable to flu-related complications. The American Nurses Association supports mandates if they&#39;re adopted at the state level and affect all hospitals, but also says exceptions should be allowed for medical or religious reasons.</p><p>Mandates for vaccinating health care workers against other diseases, including measles, mumps and hepatitis, are widely accepted. But some workers have less faith that flu shots work &mdash; partly because there are several types of flu virus that often differ each season and manufacturers must reformulate vaccines to try and match the circulating strains.</p><p>While not 100 percent effective, this year&#39;s vaccine is a good match, the CDC&#39;s Bridges said.</p><p>Several states have laws or regulations requiring flu vaccination for health care workers but only three &mdash; Arkansas, Maine and Rhode Island &mdash; spell out penalties for those who refuse, according to Alexandra Stewart, a George Washington University expert in immunization policikfriedenes and co-author of a study appearing this month in the journal Vaccine.</p><p>Rhode Island&#39;s regulation, enacted in December, may be the toughest and is being challenged in court by a health workers union. The rule allows exemptions for religious or medical reasons, but requires unvaccinated workers in contact with patients to wear face masks during flu season. Employees who refuse the masks can be fined $100 and may face a complaint or reprimand for unprofessional conduct that could result in losing their professional license.</p><p>Some Rhode Island hospitals post signs announcing that workers wearing masks have not received flu shots. Opponents say the masks violate their health privacy.</p><p>&quot;We really strongly support the goal of increasing vaccination rates among health care workers and among the population as a whole,&quot; but it should be voluntary, said SEIU Healthcare Employees Union spokesman Chas Walker.</p><p>Supporters of health care worker mandates note that to protect public health, courts have endorsed forced vaccination laws affecting the general population during disease outbreaks, and have upheld vaccination requirements for schoolchildren.</p><p>Cases involving flu vaccine mandates for health workers have had less success. A 2009 New York state regulation mandating health care worker vaccinations for swine flu and seasonal flu was challenged in court but was later rescinded because of a vaccine shortage. And labor unions have challenged individual hospital mandates enacted without collective bargaining; an appeals court upheld that argument in 2007 in a widely cited case involving Virginia Mason Hospital in Seattle.</p><p>Calhoun, the Illinois nurse, says she is unsure of her options.</p><p>&quot;Most of the hospitals in my area are all implementing these policies,&quot; she said. &quot;This conflict could end the career I have dedicated myself to.&quot;</p></p> Sat, 12 Jan 2013 14:32:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/hospitals-crack-down-workers-refusing-flu-shots-104884 Illinois hospitals fight flu with visitor limits http://www.wbez.org/news/illinois-hospitals-fight-flu-visitor-limits-104879 <p><p>Illinois hospitals are being asked to enforce restrictions on visitors because of the severe flu outbreak that&#39;s increasing the risk of infection throughout the state.</p><p>The Illinois Department of Public Health advised hospitals Friday to temporarily bar visitors younger than 18 and to limit visitors to two per patient at one time.</p><p>Other recommendations include requesting people with coughs and other symptoms not visit hospital patients.</p><p>Many hospitals already were limiting visitors because of the flu before the letter from the health department.</p><p>The Metropolitan Chicago Healthcare Council polled its member hospitals earlier this week and found that 20 percent were already altering their visitor policies.</p><p>Rob Humrickhouse of the MCHC says if people feel sick they shouldn&#39;t visit somebody in the hospital. He says: &quot;Stay home.&quot;</p></p> Sat, 12 Jan 2013 10:09:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/illinois-hospitals-fight-flu-visitor-limits-104879 Doctors say it’s not too late to get the flu shot and prevent infection http://www.wbez.org/news/doctors-say-it%E2%80%99s-not-too-late-get-flu-shot-and-prevent-infection-104808 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//main-images/flu shot.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Doctors say it&rsquo;s not too late to avoid getting the flu that&rsquo;s <a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/local-hospitals-are-overflowing-flu-patients-104780" target="_blank">hitting Chicago hard</a>.<br /><br />Health officials say this early flu season could be one of the worst in years causing more hospitalizations and deaths in the state of Illinois.&nbsp;</p><p>&ldquo;It is not too late to be vaccinated,&quot; said a recent statement by the Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH). &quot;The flu season normally runs through March and sometimes later.&rdquo;</p><p>But while some might be reluctant to get the flu shot, the one administered this year can pretty accurately combat the virus going around.<br /><br />Rahul Khare is the Assistant Professor at the Department of Emergency Medicine at Northwestern University. He said, this year, the shot is about 60 percent effective. &nbsp;&nbsp;<br /><br />&ldquo;That&rsquo;s pretty good and if can imagine yourself in bed for four days with really high fevers, and compare that with being really healthy and going to work, to me it seems worth it,&rdquo; Khare said.</p><p>According to Khare, people should spend more time doing outdoor activities instead of staying at home to avoid the illness.</p><p>&ldquo;The thing that causes a spike in viruses in the winter is that we are inside a lot and the virus accumulates and it goes [from] person to person,&rdquo; Khare said. &nbsp;</p><p>In the mean time, experts advise that only people with severe respiratory illness and who have trouble breathing need to visit the emergency room. Others who experience fever and body aches should stay home and rest but call their doctor or schedule an appointment if symptoms worsen.</p></p> Wed, 09 Jan 2013 14:26:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/doctors-say-it%E2%80%99s-not-too-late-get-flu-shot-and-prevent-infection-104808 Local hospitals are overflowing with flu patients http://www.wbez.org/news/local-hospitals-are-overflowing-flu-patients-104780 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//main-images/flu (2).jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Flu patients are crowding regional hospitals.<br /><br />Dr. Lamar Hasbrouck is the Director of Illinois&rsquo; Department of Public Health. He said the state has seen an increase in the number of flu patients coming to local hospitals this season.<br /><br />&ldquo;Last year for the same time period, we would have two persons admitted to the ICU (internal care units) for influenza-like illness, this year that compares to 147,&rdquo; said Hasbrouck.</p><p>That&rsquo;s forcing some hospitals to turn people away from the emergency room.<br /><br />About eight area hospitals were on bypass Tuesday. That means they&rsquo;re redirecting people to nearby facilities.</p><p>In the past two months, The University of Chicago Medical Center had 166 new flu-related cases. That&rsquo;s up from only one case the year before.</p><p>&ldquo;It&rsquo;s not only the overall increase in the number of patients but it&rsquo;s a lot sooner than we are used to seeing,&quot; said Allison Bartlett, associate medical director for infectious control at University of Chicago. &quot;Usually, the flu peaks at the end of January and the beginning of February,&rdquo;</p><p>Cook County&#39;s Stronger Hospital is treating an average of about 80 flu patients per day.&nbsp;</p><p>According to the Illinois&rsquo; Department of Public Health, over the last two months six people have died of flu-related complications.</p><p>But even with the dramatic increase of cases, experts said the current flu virus is not necessarily connected with worse symptoms than previous flu seasons. &nbsp;</p><p>&ldquo;I think it&rsquo;s important to know that not everybody who gets the flu needs to go into the hospital or needs to be evaluated by a physician.&rdquo; said Julie Morita medical director for the immunization program at the Chicago Department of Public Health. &ldquo;People who have mild cases of influenza can stay at home,&rdquo;.</p><p>She encourages people to wash their hands constantly and get the flu shot if they haven&rsquo;t done so.</p></p> Tue, 08 Jan 2013 15:53:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/local-hospitals-are-overflowing-flu-patients-104780 No shortage of flu vaccine as illness picks up http://www.wbez.org/news/no-shortage-flu-vaccine-illness-picks-104764 <p><p>Flu is on the upswing in Illinois along with the most of the rest of the nation.</p><p>Illinois Department of Public Health spokeswoman Melaney Arnold says almost 150 people have been admitted to intensive care units with the flu this season and five have died.</p><p>Eight Chicago-area hospitals were turning away ambulances Monday night as they dealt with a flood of patients with flu-like symptoms.</p><p>U.S. health officials say the strain of influenza virus going around this year has been linked to more hospital admissions and deaths.</p><p>It isn&#39;t too late to get a flu shot, and there&#39;s no shortage of flu vaccine.</p><p>Dr. Julie Morita of the Chicago Department of Public Health says city residents can call 311 to find out where to get a free flu shot.</p></p> Tue, 08 Jan 2013 10:32:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/no-shortage-flu-vaccine-illness-picks-104764 In 1918, killer flu hits Chicago http://www.wbez.org/blogs/john-r-schmidt/2012-10/1918-killer-flu-hits-chicago-102957 <p><p>A killer was stalking Chicago in the fall of 1918, a killer called the Spanish flu. The city had never seen anything like it. On this October 17th&nbsp;&mdash; on this one day alone &mdash; 381 Chicagoans died.</p><p>Nine decades later, scientists still argue over the origins of the disease. We do know that the worldwide 1918 flu was the deadliest pandemic since the Black Death. Over 40 million people died &mdash; four times the number killed in World War I. In the United States, flu fatalities were 600,000.</p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/10-18--US%20Dept%20of%20Public%20Health.jpg" title="Makeshift hospital ward during the 1918 epidemic (Office of the U.S. Public Health Service)" /></div><p>Unlike the usual pattern, most of the victims were not the very young or the very old. Healthy people in the prime of life were dying, and dying quickly &mdash; often within hours of showing symptoms. In Chicago, health commissioner John Dill Robertson decided on drastic actions.</p><p>The disease spread through close human contact. Therefore, all large gatherings were banned&nbsp;&mdash;&nbsp;athletic contests, labor and political meetings, banquets and so on. Schools shut down, and children playing in the parks were told to go home. Theaters and cabarets closed. Weddings were postponed, and even funerals were suspended.</p><div class="image-insert-image "><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/10-17--Flu poster.jpg" style="width: 221px; height: 335px; float: right;" title="Chicago Public Health Poster (author's collection)" /></div></div><p>Because they were considered essential for morale, churches remained open. However, Robertson requested that pastors shorten their services. Even so, attendance at religious events was down about one-third.</p><p>Most people had to continue working, so officials asked businesses to stagger their hours. Robertson suggested that commuters walk whenever possible, to avoid overcrowding on public transportation. Laws were passed to ban public spitting and to outlaw smoking on &quot;L&quot; trains. Citizens were asked to wear gauze face masks when they appeared in public.</p><p>By October 21, Chicago had received 100,000 doses of flu vaccine, and inoculations began. Whether this helped is debatable. But over the next weeks, flu deaths rapidly dropped. The war ended on November 11, and the Spanish flu was forgotten in the excitement.</p><p>About 8,500 Chicagoans had died. Former mayor John Hopkins and pioneer educator Ella Flagg Young were the most prominent victims. And there were all the others, known only to their family and friends.</p><p>Those left behind dealt with their grief. One of these was a 29-year-old Bucktown bricklayer named Florian Przedziankowski. In October 1918 he lost both his wife and his mother to the deadly flu.</p><p>But Florian moved on, as he had to. In 1920 he remarried, and a year later, he had a daughter. And that daughter became my mother.</p></p> Wed, 17 Oct 2012 05:00:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/blogs/john-r-schmidt/2012-10/1918-killer-flu-hits-chicago-102957 Scientists take big step toward a universal flu vaccine http://www.wbez.org/story/flu/scientists-take-big-step-toward-universal-flu-vaccine <p><p>&nbsp;Researchers say they&rsquo;ve taken a major step toward developing a flu vaccine that works for multiple strains of the virus, thanks to a quirk of last year&rsquo;s pandemic swine flu.</p><p>Most years, the seasonal flu virus morphs just a little, so vaccine makers have to guess what the strain will look like many months in advance. But last year&rsquo;s novel H1N1 strain may change the game. Some of the antibodies that flu generates seem to be effective across many strains, and that could be the key to a universal vaccine.</p><p>&ldquo;What the flu vaccine community would want would be antibodies that would provide immunity to all flus,&rdquo; said Patrick Wilson, assistant professor of medicine at the University of Chicago. &ldquo;Who knows? Maybe we have crossed the line &ndash; we&rsquo;re getting closer.&rdquo;</p><p>Wilson said some of the H1N1 antibodies target structures on the virus that hardly change from year to year. That means the flu bug couldn&rsquo;t outsmart the shot by mutating, though he cautioned against underestimating the crafty virus. The results are published in the Journal of Experimental Medicine.</p></p> Mon, 10 Jan 2011 14:00:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/story/flu/scientists-take-big-step-toward-universal-flu-vaccine