The Village of Oak Park | 123 Madison St.  Oak Park, IL 60302 |

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Emerging & Communicable Diseases

This page provides information and resources on emerging or communicable diseases highlighted by the Health Department. 

Influenza (Flu)

Flu is a contagious respiratory illness caused by influenza viruses that infect the nose, throat, and sometimes the lungs. It can cause mild to severe illness, and at times can lead to death. The best way to prevent flu is by getting a flu vaccine each year.

How Flu Spreads

Most experts believe that flu viruses spread mainly by tiny droplets made when people with flu cough, sneeze, or talk. These droplets can land in the mouths or noses of people who are nearby. Less often, a person might get flu by touching a surface or object that has flu virus on it and then touching their own mouth, nose or possibly their eyes.

People at Higher Risk for Severe Outcomes as a Result of Flu

Anyone can get flu (even healthy people), and serious problems related to flu can happen at any age, but some people are at higher risk of developing serious flu-related complications if they get sick. This includes people 65 years and older, people of any age with certain chronic medical conditions (such as asthma, diabetes, or heart disease), pregnant people, and children younger than 5 years.

Preventing Seasonal Flu

The first and most important step in preventing flu is to get a flu vaccine each year. Flu vaccine has been shown to reduce flu related illnesses and the risk of serious flu complications that can result in hospitalization or even death. CDC also recommends everyday preventive actions (like staying away from people who are sick, covering coughs and sneezes, and frequent handwashing) to help slow the spread of germs that cause respiratory (nose, throat, and lungs) illnesses, like flu.

Below are a few graphs showing a cluster of flu cases and hospitalizations around the months of November and December, which is typical “flu season” because people tend to find themselves indoor more frequently. There are notably more cases this fall compared to last fall.

In the U.S., most flu activity starts in October and ends in May. Peak flu season is typically between December and March. Comparing our current flu season to last year’s, there is a greater number of cases this season so far. The Oak Park Health Department continues to encourage flu vaccination and other behaviors to minimize the spread of the flu, including staying home when sick and frequent handwashing.

As illustrated in the graph above, this year’s flu cases have been more severe and resulted in an increase in hospitalizations. Taking the precautions listed above can help protect populations more vulnerable to severe cases that require hospitalization.