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27 flu deaths reported in Illinois

Kris Magnussen RN administers flu vaccine Alexander Dyjak 4 as his mother Ellen  holds him during vaccinaticlinic Ledge Light

Kris Magnussen, RN, administers the flu vaccine to Alexander Dyjak, 4, as his mother, Ellen, holds him during a vaccination clinic at Ledge Light Health District in New London, Conn., Thursday, Jan. 10, 2013. The Department of Public Health says there's been a sharp increase in flu cases across Connecticut in recent weeks. The agency announced Thursday that 1,676 laboratory-confirmed cases of influenza have been reported in the state so far this season. (AP Photo/The Day, Sean D. Elliot) MANDATORY CREDIT

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Updated: February 13, 2013 6:07AM

Nearly 370 people have been admitted to intensive care units with the flu this season in Illinois, and 27 have died, the Illinois Department of Public Health reported Friday.

That’s a big jump from the Dec. 29 totals of almost 150 Illinois residents hospitalized and six deaths.

The majority of hospitalizations and death are in their 50s and older, IDPH said.

In Chicago, there were 121 influenza-associated ICU hospitalizations reported, almost double the total number of cases reported last year, from Sept. 30 to Jan. 5.

On Friday, IDPH sent a memo to hospitals recommending that they temporarily not allow visitors younger than 18, limit the number of visitors to two per patient at a time and other visitor restrictions, in light of the increased incidence of influenza-like illness in Illinois.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said flu was widespread in 47 states last week, up from 41 the week before. But many cases may be mild. The only states without widespread flu are California, Mississippi and Hawaii.

Even so, the CDC declared the outbreak of flu an epidemic on Friday.

The hardest hit states dropped to 24 from 29. Illinois is still classified as one of the hardest hit.

So far, 20 children have died from the flu. There is no running tally of adult deaths, but the CDC estimates that the flu kills about 24,000 people in an average year.

Experts say it’s too early to say if this is a bad year.

As they have every year, health officials urged the public to get the flu vaccine.

Despite higher-than-usual interest in getting the vaccine at this time, most suppliers of the vaccine say there has not been a shortage in the Chicago area.

Of the suppliers reached by the Sun-Times, Walgreens is the only exception.

“The vast majority of our pharmacies and Take Care Clinics in the Chicago area have supplies of flu vaccine,” Walgreens spokesman Jim Graham said. However, “supplies at some stores are running low or have temporarily run out and we plan to have those resupplied by early next week.”

Graham could not immediately say how many Walgreens locations were short or where they were located.

Spokespeople at the Chicago Department of Public Health (CDPH) and pharmacies of Jewel-Osco and Dominick’s stores in Chicago, meanwhile, said they had no report of flu shortage.

CVS could not be reached.

All four suppliers that could be reached said they had seen an increase in the number of people that wanted a flu shot this year in January, compared to other years at this same time.

“We’ve seen an increase in calls from Chicago residents asking about vaccine and where they can get vaccinated, and we’ve seen an increase in people coming to our clinics, too,” Brian Richardson, director of public affairs for CDPH said.

He added, “It’s still not too late to get a vaccine for the flu.”

Flu vaccine is free of charge for adults and children older than 6 months at its locations at CDPH locations. Find a list at

Contributing: AP

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