Even though flu activity at Tomah Memorial Hospital is picking up, officials report the severity is not as high compared to other parts of the state and country.
“Compared to some other parts of the country, I would say Wisconsin has been very lucky,” said TMH infection Preventionist Jan Path, RN, BSN. “We have not seen the high numbers that some areas have had.”
Path said four patients were hospitalized with influenza A at Tomah Memorial this past week- the most this season. She said the hospital has had 24 confirmed cases of flu so far this year.
“The flu seen so far has been predominantly influenza A (H3N2),” said Path. The H3N2 strain is associated with more severe illnesses in the elderly and young children.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)- the leading national public health institute of the United States- reported the flu season is likely at its peak, but cautioned that it will take several more weeks before flu activity slows down.
“Influenza has a mind of its own,” Path added. “I would say we could be peaking right now, but it’s pretty hard to predict.”Path said officials see most cases of flu in December thru February with some cases extending into March.
Path warned that the flu should not be taken lightly. “Influenza can be a very serious illness that comes on with a very sudden onset of a high fever, body aches, cough, sore throat, severe headache and fatigue.” She also urged people with chronic illnesses, senior citizens and the very young, especially children under the age of three to seek medical attention if they suffer flu-like symptoms. "Antiviral medications can help lessen the severity of the flu for anyone, but especially those most at risk of serious complications, added Path.
To avoid spreading the flu, Path said a person should stay home if sick, practice good hygiene; including washing hands frequently, avoid or limit contact with people who are sick, and cough or sneeze into the arm of a sleeve instead of hands.
“One thing many people don’t think about is wiping off their smartphone. People handle that constantly and then it’s put up next to your face,” explained Path. “Keeping your phone clean can help keep you well.” She also recommended increasing the humidity levels in houses, since the flu virus thrives in dry conditions.
Despite reports that this year’s flu vaccine has been less than perfect, Path said there is still time to get a flu shot.