The Wisconsin Department of Health Services (DHS) expects this to be one of the longest flu seasons in recent memory with the powerful influenza A/H3 virus currently affecting young and old alike.
“The average peak for flu activity is the first week of February, but we expect this season to extend at least through the end of March, if not beyond,” said DHS Influenza Coordinator Thomas Haupt.
The H3 type of the virus is more powerful than the A/H1 virus that circulated earlier in the flu season. While the first wave was hard on younger people, Haupt says the H3 virus is hitting people 65 years old and older especially hard.
“H3 is covered by this year’s flu vaccine, so if you haven’t already, know there is still time to get a flu shot,” Haupt added.
The flu vaccine is safe and effective and is a better match to this season’s virus than last year’s vaccine, the DHS said. "Plus, by getting the flu shot, you’re protecting yourself and everyone around you from serious illness."
In addition to the vaccine, people are strongly urged to cough or sneeze into a sleeve or tissue (and throw the tissue away after one use), wash their hands and use hand sanitizer, and stay home if they are sick to avoid spreading germs to others.
Hospitalizations for flu-related symptoms are increasing to about 50 a day in Wisconsin, with one in five hospitalized patients being admitted to the intensive care unit due to the severity of their symptoms. So far this season, 36 influenza deaths have occurred in the state.
Look for updates from “The Flu Guy”, Tom Haupt, on the DHS Facebook and Twitter (link is external) pages. You can also sign up to receive the Weekly Respiratory Virus Surveillance Report by email.
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