It’s peak flu season: Here’s what you need to know

December is right around the corner, meaning we’re reaching the height of flu activity.

Flu activity typically peaks between December and February, and can last as late as May, according to the Centers for Disease Control.

“If you think you have the flu, call your doctor, make an appointment and get evaluated,” said Joshua Bettner, a family medicine doctor at the SSM Health clinic in Sun Prairie. “You have the respiratory mask on so you don’t spread the infection, but if symptoms are really bad, there is medicine that can help and shorten the course.”

Flu activity is increasing statewide, according to the Wisconsin Department of Health Services. The most common strains are Influenza A/H3 and B/Yamagata.

To protect yourself from the flu, the CDC recommends a yearly flu vaccine for everyone 6 months and older. Kids under 9 require two doses of the vaccine.

Bettner said the more people that get the vaccination, the less doctors see complications associated with the flu.

“In a perfect world, everyone gets their flu shot, practices good hand hygiene, they stay home from work or school when they really shouldn’t be there,” Bettner said. “The flu shot in children and adults is proven to decrease school days missed and missed days of work.”

Last season by this week, 25.28 percent of people in Wisconsin got a flu shot, and that has increased to 25.74 percent this year.

That’s according to the Wisconsin Department of Health Services’ latest weekly report on respiratory virus surveillance. The most recent information comes from the week ending Nov. 18.

Hospitalizations associated with influenza in the state have increased more than 200 percent in the past year. The health department’s report showed there were about 115 hospitalizations between Nov. 12 and Nov. 18, and about 30 hospitalizations the same time last year.

Elderly people, young kids and people with chronic medical illnesses are at the highest risk of complications, Bettner said.

Since September, 70 percent of flu-related hospitalizations in Wisconsin have been in people aged 65 and older.