Influenza and influenza-like illnesses are now widespread in both Iowa and Illinois, with hospitals packed with patients and at least three have died, according to the Rock Island County coroner.

According to state health department officials, this is the heart of the flu season, which could be expected to continue another six to seven weeks, or longer.

Genesis Medical Centers in Davenport are filled with patients with a number of illnesses but commonly the flu, or a respiratory condition like the flu. In addition, there is absenteeism from people who work at Genesis who have been ill, or are caring for a family member who is ill.

According to Peggy Schaefer, manager of the regional referral center at Genesis, the hospitals have a capacity of 300, but were at 306 patients as of Wednesday morning. Thirteen additional patients were due to be hospitalized, and around 60 patients would be discharged, if that could happen safely.

"It definitely takes a team effort. We're turning rooms over as quickly as patients can be safely discharged," Schaefer said in an e-mail message.

"No one is being rushed out," she added. "Discharges occur only when a patient can leave, safely. We try to make sure we're making those discharge decisions as quickly as possible."

Recent weather conditions added to the number of patients being treated, she said.

In Rock Island County, coroner Brian Gustafson said there have been three deaths related to influenza. It's early in the season for these deaths to occur, he added.

Ann Garvey, deputy state epidemiologist, said the Iowa Department of Health monitors the illness. Right now, the incidence rate in Iowa is similar to what occurred in 2014, which was a harsh flu season in Iowa, Illinois and the nation.

According to a national influenza surveillance network, the rate is spiking just above where it was in 2014. Data from clinics in Iowa show that of 2,172 tests given for influenza in the week ending Dec. 30, 25 percent were positive. That number will increase as the flu season goes along, Garvey said.

While many people, and children in the Quad-Cities, received flu vaccines already, they are still being distributed. One site, for example, is the Rock Island County Health Department, located at 2112 25th Ave.

Flu shots are not meant to stop every sniffle, Garvey said, the vaccine is meant to reduce the number of hospitalizations and deaths in the United States. Influenza is still a Top-10 killer of people in America.

This year, the most flu cases so far are of the influenza A, called the "H3" variety. Flu vaccines have what is termed less "efficacy" against the H3 strain, Garvey said, and are better at combating other strains, like influenza B.

Iowa has reported influenza outbreaks in six long-term care facilities as of Dec. 30, and the infection and mortality rate is higher in people older than 64.

The Walgreen's Flu Index, a weekly report on flu activity throughout the United States, names Iowa as second among states with flu activity, and the Quad-Cities as the third-leading metropolitan area in the nation with high flu activity.

Iowa is among the states which experienced the greatest increase in flu activity in the first week of January, the index shows.

The Walgreen's index is compiled using weekly retail prescription data for antiviral medications used to treat influenza at Walgreen's and Duane Reade locations in the United States and Puerto Rico.

There are no official reports from the schools, because of holidays and weather-reported closings. However, Genesis gives out up to 40,000 vaccinations each year in the Flu-Free Quad-Cities program, and that includes many children in the Quad-City region.

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