Every year the flu season strikes homes throughout Wisconsin, and the annual call out for flu shots echoes over the airwaves and the web. However, this year’s flu season is making headlines due to a large increase in people contracting the virus as compared to last year.
Carrie Johnson, an infection control practitioner at Community Memorial Hospital, said 55 patients were hospitalized for influenza since Oct. 1. Johnson said that’s the highest number of patients admitted for the flu in more than a decade.
“Wisconsin has been seeing a significantly higher number of cases of influenza,” Johnson said. “It’s probably the highest number of cases we’ve had here in 10 years.”
Community Memorial isn’t alone.
Flu cases in the Milwaukee area have increased to an “intense” level, significantly exceeding moderate levels in 2011-12, according to Google Flu Trends.
Wisconsin is among 42 states to have a widespread flu outbreak, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. All 50 states are reporting symptoms, with Hawaii only reporting sporadic cases.
More than 1,200 people in Wisconsin have been hospitalized because of flu symptoms, creating crowding problems at Milwaukee-area hospitals, according to Today’s TMJ4.
ProHealth Care in Waukesha County saw between 20 and 22 hospitalizations during the entire flu season in 2011-12. This year, they’ve already surpassed 100 hospitalizations at Waukesha Memorial Hospital and Oconomowoc Memorial Hospital, according to Andre Pells, a nurse in ProHealth Care’s infection control department.
“It seems to be affecting the elderly and the very young predominantly. Those under one year of age, and over the age of 65,” Johnson said. “People who are sick with any respiratory illness are urged to stay away from those age groups. Their bodies can’t recover from influenza like healthy and young people.”
Menomonee Falls School District Superintendent Patricia Greco said there haven't been an increase in the number of flu-related absences throughout the district.
Misconceptions, Symptoms, and Treatment
Johnson said there are several misconceptions about the flu virus. Often, people link vomiting and diarrhea with the flu, but Johnson said those aren’t symptoms of influenza.
“That’s not influenza. In most cases it’s a stomach virus,” Johnson said.
Telltale symptoms of the flu include:
- Sore throat
- Body aches
- Severe fatigue
“Generally people are so sick that they have to rest. They can’t function with the flu,” Johnson said.
Johnson said people with those symptoms should contact their primary care physician for treatment. Although the doors at CMH are always open, only those in need of urgent care should seek treatment at the hospital. Heading to a primary care physician helps the hospital manage its volume of patients who are in most need.
“Many times, younger healthy individuals can overcome the virus on their own,” Johnson said.
Lastly, Johnson urged everyone exhibiting symptoms of the flu to stay at home until fully recovered. You’re clear to return to school or work once your fever subsides for 24 hours without the use of fever reducing medications.
Where to Get a Flu Shot
While the best time to receive the influenza vaccination is in October and November, there are still flu shots available. Your primary care physician can administer the vaccine any time. If you're considering getting a flu shot, here are some other places in the Menomonee Falls area that offer the vaccine:
- Walgreens (Appleton Avenue)
- Walgreens (Silver Spring
- Pick 'N Save