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Doctors: Flu season in Wisconsin still hasn't reached its peak

Experts say it's not too late to get the vaccine
Posted at 4:51 PM, Jan 29, 2018
and last updated 2018-01-29 23:49:06-05

Doctors in Wisconsin warn that the worst of the flu season is yet to come as hospital visits continue to increase week after week.

Recent numbers from the state Department of Health Services show Wisconsin is averaging close to 100 hospitalizations for the flu each day.

"We are way above 3,000 hospitalizations," said Thomas Haupt, the influenza surveillance coordinator with the Department of Health Services. "The previous week, we had about 600 hospitalizations. That’s a lot."

He says the northern part of the state is seeing higher levels of the flu right now. But that doesn't mean the southern part won't catch up soon.

"We aren’t that much better at getting our flu shot so I think it’s just we have not seen the peak of our influenza activity here in the southern region or the southeast region," said Dr. Lyn Ranta, a pediatrician at Children's Hospital. "So potentially the worst is yet to come, unfortunately."

Health experts continue to say it's not too late to get a flu shot, especially those in high-risk categories.

That includes children under five, adults over 65 and those with chronic health conditions. Pregnant women are also highly encouraged to get a shot.

"Pregnant women are highly susceptible to having serious influenza," Ranta said. "To protect themselves they should have the vaccine. If the mother is vaccinated, it helps the baby when they are born."

Wisconsin has not had any pediatric deaths so far this flu season. If current trends continue, this would be the first flu season ever where no children die from the flu in Wisconsin. There have been 37 pediatric deaths so far this season in the country.

While the Department of Health Services does not track adult deaths, they can confirm that there have been adult deaths this season in Wisconsin.

"Unfortunately the vaccines don’t work quite as well for the H3N2 strains of the virus," Ranta said. "That seems to be the case this year. Certainly getting the vaccine protects you from getting serious illness."

She also said the flu vaccine can not give you the flu as it is not a live virus vaccine.

"People say 'why should I get it if it’s not going to protect me 100 percent?' I think it’s really important to realize many vaccines aren’t 100 percent effective but just the chance it could help prevent you from getting a serious illness or having to be hospitalized makes it well worth it," Ranta said.