JANESVILLE, Wis. - Flu season hasn't hit its peak yet, but health experts said the illness is packing a punch.
The seasonal flu typically doesn't spike until February, but in just the first week of January, doctors and pharmacists are staying busy.
The state's influenza coordinator said there's still time to get a flu shot. So far, about 80 percent of the flu cases reported in Wisconsin are covered by the vaccine.
Dr. Jay MacNeal, with Mercy Hospital, said the flu has been hitting Rock County hard. He said the hospital saw its first case of the flu more than a month ago.
"I've seen it pretty widespread and have actually had to admit folks to the hospital in their 30s and 40s with it," MacNeal said.
MacNeal said flu symptoms usually come on like the common cold, with headaches, chills and sore throats, but fevers and body aches are unique to the flu.
"Our patient volumes are up about 50 percent at some of our urgent cares, and about 30 percent at our main hospital, and most of that is flu," MacNeal said.
Thomas Haupt, influenza surveillance coordinator for the state, said it's already worse than last year.18006186
"We've had 660 hospitalizations in Wisconsin and at least another 40-50 being reported today, so we'll be up over 700; that's over double what we had all of last year," Haupt said. "There have been some flu-related deaths unfortunately at some nursing homes in elderly patients. We've also had one pediatric death in Wisconsin that has been reported."
State health officials said there's ample supply of the flu vaccine and there's still time to get vaccinated.
"Peak season hasn't happened yet. It's going to get worse before it gets better. Now is the time to get vaccinated," Haupt said.
"The people who are getting thee flu that had the shot, to me it seems like it's not as severe," MacNeal said.
MacNeal recommended people stay home and isolate themselves if they're feeling sick so they don't pass the flu on to others.
If people aren't getting better, they should see a doctor. MacNeal said the prescribed medications may not be as effective if they aren't taken within the first few days, so it's better to head to the doctor sooner rather than later.