The number of Wisconsin influenza-associated hospitalizations continues to grow in a historic flu season across the entire country.
More than 600 Wisconsinites were hospitalized with flu-associated illnesses last week, according to the Department of Health Service's weekly, Respiratory Virus Surveillance Report.
From Sept. 1 to Jan. 27, there was a total of 3,809 influenza-related hospitalizations in Wisconsin. During the week from Jan. 20 to Jan. 27, there were 613 hospitalizations. The week prior, there were 646 hospitalizations.
Children are among the most vulnerable. So far, no kids have been reported dead of flu-related illnesses in Wisconsin.
But numbers released Friday from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show 53 pediatric, flu-related deaths across the country since Oct. 1. According to the CDC report, 16 of those deaths were reported last week.
Of those hospitalized in Wisconsin, 41 patients were under the age of 1, 60 were ages 1-4, and 75 were between the aged of 5 and 17.
While children are vulnerable, the majority of patients are older. 392 patients were 18-49 and 709 were ages 50 to 64. The majority of cases were of people 65 and older, specifically 2,532 hospitalizations.
The CDC also classifies Wisconsin as one of 48 states currently seeing "widespread" flu activity.
At Children's Hospital of Wisconsin, director of physician affairs Dr. Lyn Ranta said "hundreds" of children have been through the emergency room in the last month with flu-like symptoms.
"There's far more influenza here in Wisconsin right now than probably since three or four years ago," Ranta said. "Our emergency room department volumes have been significantly higher than this time last year."
"They've added extra shifts to make sure we can accommodate patients," she added.
Ranta said the current, peak flu season could hang around for another three to five weeks.
She said it's not too late to get a flu shot.
"You may still get sick," Ranta said. "But you won't be as sick as if you didn't get your flu shot."
Locally, parents of young children said they are taking extra precautions.
"It seems like (the flu) is extra bad this year," said Lisa Pieper, of Wauwatosa. "I'm making everyone sanitize their hands constantly, we're all washing our hands constantly."
"When you have a middle-school age, 13-year old boy, that kind of terrifies me," said Pieper, a Mom of three. "Because people are dying."
Jolie Parchmont, of Milwaukee, said her 6-year old son Oliver received a flu shot.
"We've just seen, from personal experience, that this year a higher number of our friends and families are being affected by (the flu)," Parchmont said.
In addition to children, pregnant women and the elderly are the most vulnerable to influenza.