Avoiding the Flu this Holiday Season

Flu Season
•    Flu season hits Illinois with medical warnings.  Infectious disease specialists point out a gap between the strains of flu protected against by each fall’s flu vaccine and the strains that actually hit the United States.  The Associated Press and its partner, the Northwest Herald, reported an increase in flu-related hospital admissions on Saturday, December 13.  The Department of Public Health reports that 115 of these patients have been admitted to intensive care treatment units.  Cases of flu often need to be monitored with special care when the victim or potential victim is already facing other long-term or acute health challenges. 

Persons with infectious diseases are encouraged to stay away from public places, including schools, workplaces and especially health facilities.  The Chicago Tribune reported climbing absentee rates at Illinois primary and secondary schools on Wednesday, December 17 as parents withdrew pupils from classes and activities.  Persons who have been vaccinated will continue to be partly protected from this year’s flu threat.   

Medical Cannabis – Coordinated Administration of Act
•    Deadline approaches for eligible patients and their physicians to submit applications.  The cannabis-card division of the Medical Cannabis Pilot Program, operated by the Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH), imposes strict controls on potential card applicants.  Only patients with certain clearly defined and diagnosed medical conditions, independently recommended for this treatment by a medical doctor, will be eligible to apply for a cannabis card.  The IDPH has set up a website for eligible patients to begin the application process.

Under the Compassionate Use of Medical Cannabis Pilot Program Act, applicants must comply with the rules and regulations promulgated by the Department.  IDPH is strongly encouraging patients to begin the application process prior to December 31, 2014, as they have staff in place now to conduct the verification process necessary to confirm a patient’s eligibility to receive a cannabis card.  Only patients with cards, and their caregivers, will be eligible to enter the dispensaries that will be authorized to sell cannabis and cannabis medications to approved patients.  Dispensaries, regulated by the Department of Financial and Professional Regulation  (DFPR) will be highly secure facilities under the provisions of the Pilot Program Act, and part of the cost charged to patients will be used to maintain 24/7 security in dispensaries and cultivation centers.  Cultivation centers will be regulated by the Illinois Department of Agriculture (IDOA).  

Nothing will prevent newly diagnosed patients from commencing an application process after December 31, but they may face delays in getting cannabis cards.  It is expected that a network of approved cultivation centers and dispensaries will be in place shortly throughout Illinois.  Patients diagnosed with cancer, glaucoma, HIV, multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s disease, post-concussion syndrome, seizures (including seizures characteristic of epilepsy), spinal cord injury, and certain other diagnoses are eligible to start the application process.  IDPH has posted a list of frequently asked medical-cannabis questions and answers, including a complete list of eligible diagnoses.