Physicians warn flu season could get worse before it gets better

The Wisconsin Department of Health Services reports over 450 hospitalizations and 11 deaths as of Jan. 3

MADISON, Wis. – The Wisconsin Department of Health Services is urging people to take measures to avoid catching the flu this season after hospitalization triple past year’s.

DHS reported 459 hospitalizations and 11 deaths due to complications from influenza in Wisconsin.

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention moved Wisconsin from a low to high activity level of influenza-like-illnesses in the state. Local health physicians said it could get worse before it gets better.

“The best thought is that we are still going to be seeing it rise before we see it fall. Generally, the flu season lasts anywhere between four and 12 weeks, with eight kind of being the average,” Infectious Disease Physician at UW Health Joseph McBride said. “I would imagine we are going to remain pretty high throughout January, but we’ll see.”

DHS reported a rise in admissions to intensive care units for respiratory illnesses, a main symptom of the flu. McBride said more patients are testing positive for Influenza B compared to Influenza A, which is unusual.

“This year is a little atypical. Our most predominant strain that we are seeing is Influenza B, which is sometimes more of a mild strain,” McBride said.

McBride said there are only subtle differences between Influenza A and Influenza B, and the symptoms of both tend to be similar.

“Each strain, each year is a little bit different itself, and they generally cause the same type of illness,” McBride said.

Symptoms consist of respiratory infection, viral infection, cough, fever, runny nose and body aches.

McBride said the best way to prevent the illness to get the flu shot, but there are other ways to stay well, including good hand hygiene, staying away from those with a cough or cold and keeping areas clean.

“And then a little bit of luck, because it is really challenging, especially when the whole family or whole household gets it,” McBride said.”

DHS recommends for those who show symptoms to stay home from work and school to avoid spreading the illness.