Health officials stress prevention ahead of peak flu season

Although flu cases continue to rise, peak flu season has not arrived

MADISON, Wis.– Peak influenza season has not arrived yet, and many weeks of high flu activity could still be ahead, according to the Wisconsin Department of Health Services.

“Flu is interesting in that it comes in a big wave. You’ll start out with a few cases and then all of the sudden, you’ll get a ton, and it will peak, and then you’ll sort of trickle out,” Trent Thompson, a family medicine physician at SSM Health, said.

In Thompson’s analogy of the wave, he said Wisconsin is definitely on its way up.

“Sometimes people get the flu and they’re not that sick. Other times, people are sick and dying,” Thompson said. “Already, this flu season, over 12,000 people in the United States have died from influenza, including the second kid in Wisconsin.”

DHS confirmed a second pediatric influenza related death on Thursday.

“This is a tragedy. Any influenza death is a tragedy, especially a child, and we want to offer our deepest sympathies to the family and relatives of this particular child,” DHS Influenza Surveillance Coordinator Tom Haupt said.

One in three people with influenza symptoms tested positive for the illness this week, according to DHS.

As cases continue to rise, officials are stressing that prevention is important.

“We want to emphasize vaccination is still the best means of protection,” Haupt said.

Approximately 40 percent of people got the flu shot this season, a record for Wisconsin, according to DHS.

“That’s the single best thing you can do to prevent the flu,” Thompson said.

Health officials said it is still possible to get a flu shot, and it will be given out as long as supplies are available.

“If you do have symptoms like that, don’t go to school, don’t go to work, cover  your cough, do all of the stuff our parents told us about when we were kids,” Thompson said. “That can help prevent everyone else from getting sick as well.”

If someone is already showing symptoms, Thompson said it’s important to help stop the spread.