Doctors see more flu cases as Wisconsin experiences severe outbreak
State health dept. reports 2,430 hospitalizations
JANESVILLE, Wis. — Doctors around the state are reporting more flu cases this year compared to the same time last year.
The Wisconsin Department of Health Services said there have been 2,430 hospitalizations since the flu season started in September. According to data on the health department’s website , by the third week of 2017, there had been 391 hospitalizations and 79 by the same time the year before.
“[I’m] definitely seeing more cases this year and, just from my experience this year, I’ve definitely admitted more patients,” said Dr. Giuseppe Altamore, an emergency room physician for Mercyhealth in Janesville.
Altamore said he’s mostly admitted elderly patients. Statewide, the health department says 70 percent of the hospitalizations this year have been people over 65.
At Mercyhealth, data shows there have been 356 positive flu cases since Oct. 1. Last season, there were only 28 during the same time frame.
The Rock County Health Department said flu vaccinations have been down throughout the state.
“Influenza vaccination in Wisconsin is actually trending lower compared to previous years,” said Michelle Bailey, the public health nurse supervisor at the county health department.
Altamore said the best protection from getting the flu is to get the vaccination. He said flu season usually lasts through March, so it’s not too late to get vaccinated.
DHS said there’s ample supply, and the flu vaccine is safe and effective for people 6 months old and older.
“Obviously, the population we’re worried about are the young and the elderly,” Altamore said. “Also patients who are immune-compromised, either on chemotherapy, uncontrolled diabetics, those are the patients that we’re most concerned about.”
DHS said no children have died from the flu in Wisconsin. Across the country, there have been 30 flu-related pediatric deaths.
Altamore said cold and flu symptoms often mimic each other, but there are some ways to tell them apart.
“Usually with the flu, you look a little more ill, more miserable, body aches, things like that,” he said. “Headaches are more prevalent with the flu versus just a cold.”
— Jenna Middaugh (@JennaMiddaugh) January 19, 2018
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