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:

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  • Myth: The Flu Shot Can Give You The Flu

    <strong>Fact:</strong> This myth just will not die. So let's clear this up: You <em>cannot</em> get the flu from your flu shot. Why? That vaccine is made from a dead or inactive virus that can no longer spread its fever-spiking properties. <a href="http://www.everydayhealth.com/cs-cold-flu-pictures-myths/colds-and-flu-whats-true.aspx#/slide-4">In rare cases, a person may experience a reaction to the shot</a> that includes a low-grade fever, but these reactions are not <em>The Flu</em>, Everyday Health reported. Note: Even though the flu shot cannot cause the flu, there are a number of other <a href="http://www.everydayhealth.com/cold-and-flu/flu-vaccines.aspx">reasons not to get the vaccine</a>, including for some people with an allergy to eggs or a history of Guillain-Barre Syndrome.

  • Myth: If You've Already Had Your Shot, You Are Guaranteed To Be Flu-Free

    <strong>Fact:</strong> Unfortunately, even after slapping a bandage on that injection site, you <a href="http://www.cdc.gov/flu/about/qa/vaccineeffect.htm">may only be about 60 percent protected</a>, according to the CDC. That means, yes, you <a href="http://www.npr.org/blogs/health/2013/01/08/168814935/can-you-get-a-flu-shot-and-still-get-the-flu">can still get the flu after your shot</a>. Some people may be exposed to the flu in the two weeks it takes for the vaccine to take effect, reports NPR. Others might be exposed to a strain not covered in the vaccine, which is made each year <a href="http://www.flu.gov/prevention-vaccination/vaccination/index.html">based on the viruses experts predict will be the most common</a>, according to Flu.gov. (This year's batch seems to have been matched well to what is actually going around, NPR reports.)

  • Myth: Antibiotics Can Fight The Flu

    <strong>Fact:</strong> Plain and simply, antibiotics fight <em>bacteria</em>, not viruses. The flu -- and colds, for that matter -- are caused by viruses. In fact, <a href="http://www.fda.gov/Drugs/ResourcesForYou/ucm078494.htm">antibiotics kill off the "good" bacteria</a> that help to fight off infections, so that viral flu may only get <em>worse</em>.

  • Myth: The Stomach Flu Is A Type Of Influenza

    <strong>Fact:</strong> Nausea, vomiting or diarrhea, while often dubbed the "stomach flu," are <a href="http://www.flu.gov/about_the_flu/seasonal/">not typically symptoms of seasonal influenza</a>, which, first and foremost, is a respiratory disease, according to Flu.gov. The flu can sometimes cause these issues, but they won't usually be the <em>main</em> symptoms -- and are more common signs of seasonal flu in children than adults.

  • Myth: If You're Young And Healthy, You Don't Need The Shot

    <strong>Fact:</strong> Younger, healthy adults aren't among the <a href="http://www.cdc.gov/flu/about/qa/flushot.htm#high-risk">people the CDC urges most strongly to get vaccinated</a>, like pregnant women, people over 65 and those with certain chronic medical conditions. The young and healthy will more often than not recover just fine from the flu, with or without the shot. But protecting yourself even if you don't think you need protecting can actually be an act of good. The <a href="http://healthland.time.com/2011/10/13/no-excuses-a-brief-guide-to-the-flu-shot/">more people are vaccinated, the fewer cases of flu we all pass around</a>, which in turn offers greater protection to those at-risk groups.

  • Myth: You Can Get The Flu From Being In The Cold Without A Coat (Or With Wet Hair)

    <strong>Fact:</strong> Mom or Grandma probably told you this one at some point, and while you might not feel so cozy if you head out the door straight from the shower, doing so doesn't exactly condemn you to bed. <a href="http://www.health.harvard.edu/flu-resource-center/10-flu-myths.htm">The <em>only</em> way to catch the flu is to come into contact with the virus</a> that causes it. That might happen <em>while</em> you are outside in the cold, and flu season does certainly happen during cold weather, but it's not because you're cold that you catch the bug.

  • Myth: There's No Treatment For The Flu

    <strong>Fact:</strong> It's not antibiotics that cure-seekers should be looking for. While the two antiviral drugs available to fight the flu aren't a quick fix, they <em>can</em> <a href="http://www.webmd.com/cold-and-flu/features/top-13-flu-myths?page=2">reduce the length of your bout of the flu and make you less contagious</a> to others, according to WebMD. This year's earlier-than-usual flu season has already led to <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/01/10/flu-vaccine-shortage-tamiflu-_n_2448519.html">shortages of one of the drugs, Tamiflu</a>, in the children's liquid formulation, according to the medication's manufacturers. However, a number of experts in countries around the world have questioned Tamiflu's efficacy in fighting the flu, and some have even <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/11/12/tamiflu-evidence-british-medical-journal-cochrane_n_2117287.html">suggested a boycott until further data is published</a>.


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