Area health agencies are reporting that this year's flu season is particularly intense.
The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is monitoring "widespread" influenza activity in Illinois this year.
According to the Cook County Department of Public Health the number of people experiencing influenza-like symptoms continues to increase in the suburbs. Those suffering from the illness are showing symptoms that are much more severe than in previous years.
Drug manufacturers have also been feeling the effects of the increased number of cases. The makers of Tamiflu, which slows down flu symptoms, reported a shortage of the drug, according to Reuters.
The CDC is reporting that the Great Lakes region is the nation's hardest hit with about 60 percent of people checked for the flu testing positive.
Google's Flu Trends page classified the flu rate in Illinois and Chicago as 'intense' and shows levels much higher than previous years.
Several local hospitals have been forced this week to temporarily detour ambulances as the number of patients sick with the flu overwhelmed emergency rooms, according the Chicago Tribune.
The Chicago Department of Public Health recommends a few simple steps to help prevent the spread of the disease. The most important is a flu shot for everyone six months and older. Other steps include:
- Wash your hands often with soap and water. Use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer if soap and water are not available.
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth.
- Don't share cups, straws or anything that goes in the mouth.
- Cover your nose and mouth when you cough and sneeze, and promptly discard used facial tissues.
- If you are sick, stay home.
Read More: Where to Get a Flu Shot Locally
Updated, 10 a.m.