Influenza cases are on the rise throughout the entire country, and area schools and hospitals in Waukesha County are seeing a huge increase in the illness this year compared to last year.
Waukesha Patch Facebook fans have been fighting the flu – although not everyone. While some households have been experiencing the illness and its symptoms, others have remained untouched.
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.
The increase of flu cases isn’t isolated to Milwaukee County. ProHealth Care in Waukesha County saw between 20 and 22 hospitalizations during the entire flu season in 2011-12. This year, they’ve already suprassed 100 hospitalizations at Waukesha Memorial Hospital and Oconomowoc Memorial Hospital, according to Andre Pells, a nurse in ProHealth Care’s infection control department.
About 90 percent of patients admitted are over age 65, Pells said.
“It is typically our older population who are requiring hospitalization,” Pells said.
A few “sporadic” cases of influenza among a younger population have also required hospitalization, Pells said.
“On any given day, we are seeing children, teens, 20s, 30s, 40s – all the way up,” Pells said. “Their illnesses are not requiring hospitalization.”
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Peggy Eckart, manager for the infection control department, said 98 percent of state flu tests show the influenza strain is the same throughout the area. The flu strain “is typically harder on the older population,” Eckart said.
It’s difficult for ProHealth Care officials to gauge how many patients have the influenza. Once it is diagnosed in a family, other cases in the household are treated without testing. However, the urgent care clinics saw twice as many patients than normal during the week between Christmas and New Year’s with the majority of the patients having flu symptoms.
Once a person becomes sick with the flu, Eckart said they should contact their physicians because medication can help lessen the symptoms and shorten the duration of the flu.
“It is important to get it early on in the illness,” Eckart said. “Ideal is within the first 48 hours.”
It’s not too late to receive flu shots. The state and public health departments are encouraging the influenza vaccination as it not believed the flu season has yet hit its worst point.
And the flu season still lasts for a few more months. This year’s flu season is the worst in five years in Wisconsin, and it hasn’t reached its highest point yet. The season peaks in a few weeks, according to Fox 6 News.
“Since we had such an early onset this year and an early peak, could we see a second peak in the February, March time frame? I think that is an unknown,” Eckart said.
The influenza is contracted through drops of moisture spread through the air when a person cough, sneezes or talks, according to the Wisconsin Division of Public Health. Symptoms can take between one and three days to appear. Infected people can be contagious for one day before the illness and up to five days after the illness.
According to the Wisconsin Division of Public Health, symptoms are:
- Dry cough
- Aching in the muscles and joints
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. If you're considering getting a flu shot, here are some places in the Waukesha area that offer the vaccine:
- Pick 'N Save
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention offers the following information: