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Flu-related hospitalizations have tripled in Wisconsin over last few weeks

Posted at 6:37 PM, Jan 16, 2018
and last updated 2018-01-16 22:44:17-05

The entire country is dealing with widespread flu activity and Wisconsin is no exception. 

"Influenza-associated hospitalizations statewide have tripled in the last few weeks," said Tom Haupt, Wisconsin State Influenza Surveillance Coordinator. "The Southeastern region has really doubled their outpatient activity over the last couple weeks. All of the 50 states are widespread and that's never happened before."

At Wheaton Franciscan All Saints Hospital in Racine, they say they've seen 650 flu cases since the fall, more than twice what they saw at this point last year. 

Rosalyn Stone, a Registered Nurse and manager of Infection Prevention and Control said it's the worst season she's seen in her 20-year career. 

While Wisconsin hasn't had any pediatric deaths due to the virus, the Centers for Disease Control say there have been 20 reported pediatric deaths this season. At this point last year, there were just three. Haupt says it's only going to get worse before it gets better.

"Influenza does what influenza wants to do," Haupt said. "We're going to see high activity, increased activity for the next three to four weeks at least."

"This year with the strain going around, the flu is hitting harder than we're all prepared for," said Rebecca Michelsen, Manager for Community Outreach and Family Programs at Penfield Children's Center.

Michelsen says they haven't been hit hard by the flu as of now but she knows the kids at Penfield Children's Center are at risk since their immune systems are not fully developed. It's a problem the elderly face as well. Experts suggest avoiding the two age groups if you're not feeling well and wearing a mask if you must interact with them. 

"At any point, you're the parent," Michelsen said. "You have the right to say, 'I'm not coming to that family function today,' because you want to keep your child safe."

She says the tried and true methods of frequent hand washing can help prevent the spread of the virus but she also suggests people still get their flu shot if they haven't done so. She says it's still not too late. 

"What you want to do is get the flu shot," Michelsen said. "Even if it's not matching up exactly to what the strain going around is, it will make those symptoms less for you. They'll be weakened had they not gotten the immunization but you want to keep an eye on it. It can easily go into something more if we're not paying attention to it. Even though they're sick, they're probably still going to have interest in toy sand playing and you just notice their personality is not what it normally is. Those are times you want to be calling a pediatrician and thinking about taking a trip to the hospital or urgent care."

Michelsen says if your child is having difficulty breathing or lacking alertness, they should be taken to the hospital. She also says children should be kept away from school or daycare until they are without a fever for at least 24 hours without the aid of fever-reducing medications.