The risk of getting the flu is spiking, as the city reports an increase in symptoms at Chicago hospitals and health care facilities for the seventh week in a row, the Chicago Sun-Times is reporting.
Historically, flu outbreaks can happen as early as October but usually peak in January or February, according to the city's Department of Public Health.
In data received from more than 50 sites across Chicago, 14 hospitals reported that nearly six percent of emergency department visits were due to influenza-like illness, the city said.
The latest data from Dec. 22-28 shows a consistent increase in flu symptoms at Chicago hospitals from the last seven weeks. There were 14 influenza-associated Intensive Care Unit hospitalizations, all of which tested positive for the illness. This week last season, there were 36 hospitalizations.
In the latest figures, 87 of the 564 people who came to Chicago hospitals with symptoms tested positive for the flu at Chicago hospitals.
Since late September, 4,864 people have tested positive for the flu in Chicago.
The city's health department says vaccination is the best way to keep the flu away. Pregnant women, young children, people 65 years of age and older and anyone with underlying health conditions like asthma, diabetes, or a weekend immune system are especially encouraged to get a vaccine, the department says.