01/15/2013 06:27 pm ET

Illinois Flu Deaths Up To 27, Gov. Quinn Urges Residents To Get Flu Shots

With flu deaths up to 27 in Illinois -- up drastically from the zero deaths from the virus reported last year -- Gov. Pat Quinn is urging any individuals who haven't already to get a flu vaccine.

Gov. Quinn on Monday said that he's already gotten a flu shot this season and that other Illinoisans should follow his lead as the state is one of many nationwide currently experiencing unusually high flu activity, ABC Chicago reports. As of Monday, the state is one of 24 with "higher-than-normal" flu activity.

"We have to protect ourselves against that virus. We want to help our neighbor, folks in our family, people we work with, people we go to church with," the governor told ABC. "It's all about helping each other."

The Associated Press noted that many Illinoisans appear to be heeding the warning and getting flu vaccines -- which, unfortunately, has led to some spot shortages of shots. Still, Illinois Department of Public Health Director LaMar Hasbrouck noted that there is no shortage of vaccines statewide.

(Where to get a flu shot in Illinois.)

The flu season in the Chicago area and statewide in Illinois has hit earlier and harder than any other in nearly a decade. It was so bad earlier this month that a number of area hospitals temporarily went on bypass, urging ambulances transporting individuals with flu-like symptoms to take patients elsewhere. As of last week, many local hospitals were still struggling with overcrowding.

Some hospitals are dealing with the strain on their resources by speeding up their flu testing using a federally-approved machine that can diagnose the virus in just more than an hour, the Chicago Tribune reports.

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



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