CHICAGO
01/11/2013 11:09 am ET Updated Jan 11, 2013

Chicago Flu Season: Flu Outbreak Continues To Crowd Area Hospitals

With the entire nation in the midst of a flu outbreak that health officials are calling one of the worst the country has seen over the last decade, Chicago-area hospitals continue to be packed with patients experiencing flu-like symptoms.

ABC Chicago reported that local hospitals, two days on the heels of many area facilities being forced to turn away patients due to overcrowding, are still struggling to treat their flu patients, many of whom they say they cannot do much for as the virus simply must run its course.

"In general there's not a whole lot doctors can do for otherwise healthy patients," Dr. Tarlan Hedayati of Stroger Hospital told the station. "But when patients have pre-existing conditions that compromise their systems further, it can be serious."

Illinois has been one of the states most severely impacted by the flu virus this season, which has hit earlier and harder than it has in recent years. According to NBC Chicago, about 150 people with the flu were admitted to intensive care units through Wednesday -- and six of them have died.

"This season is a reminder of how serious flu can be," Dr. Julie Morita of the Chicago Department of Public Health told NBC.

Seniors over the age of 65 and children under 5 years of age are most susceptible to the flu.

The American Association of Retired Persons (AARP)'s Illinois chapter is urging the elderly to get flu shots, according to the Associated Press. Illinois residents are also being urged to check in on their older family members and help them get a flu shot or treatment at a clinic if they need it.

(Where to get a flu shot in Illinois.)

Parents of young children who are battling flu-like symptoms are also being reminded that children under the age of four should never be given cough or cold medicines.

As of Thursday, only 13 U.S. states only reported "high" flu activity -- all the rest, including Illinois, were reporting "intense" flu activity.

RELATED ON HUFFPOST:

PHOTO GALLERIES
Flu Myths

***

CONVERSATIONS