The numbers of those infected with influenza in the area continue to grow, with increasing instances of hospitalizations.
In Wisconsin from Oct. 5 until last Friday, there have been 1,360 hospitalizations due to the flu. And last week alone there were 600 hospitalizations for the flu in the state, indicating it’s picking up momentum, according to Rock County Health Department Officer Karen Cain.
Of the 1,360 cases of hospitalizations, 869 of the cases were people over the age of 65. And, 154 people were placed in intensive care. Of the 154 people in intensive care, 90 of them were over age 65.
There have been at least 40 hospitalizations due to the flu in Rock County since the end of December, according to Rock County Health Department Public Health Nurse Supervisor Sancee Siebold.
Last year the health department followed up on only 18 hospital-associated cases of influenza.
“We’ve had a lot more people coming in for the flu shots, and becoming worried. Fortunately there have been no pediatric deaths in Rock County,” Siebold said.
Beloit Health System inpatient status peaked about a week ago, however it is still above average, according to spokesperson Sarah Starmer.
Mercy Health System spokesperson Trish Skram said patients with the flu are still showing up at its urgent cares and emergency rooms in Janesville. At Mercy Hospital and Trauma Center, about four to six patients were hospitalized per day last week with influenza-like illness.
“Our urgent cares in Janesville are still seeing about a 20 percent increase in patient volumes. To avoid the flu, we strongly encourage people to get a flu vaccine and practice good hand hygiene by washing hands often using soap and water or hand sanitizer,” Skram said.
Siebold reminds people it’s still not too late to get the flu shot, as the state is not expecting the flu to peak in Wisconsin for another two to three weeks.
“Even if you’ve got the flu, you probably had just one of the three strains in the shot. The vaccination would help protect you against the other strains,” she said.
Siebold said the particular flu strain this year, H3N2, is historically known for being stronger than other viruses.
“It tends to be the one that hits the older individuals in particular,” Siebold said.
The flu vaccine is only around 62-63 percent effective, and people with underlying health conditions may get a milder case of the flu even if they’ve been immunized.
Siebold said many area nursing homes are refraining from taking in new admissions and are cutting down on the number of visitors in order to curb the influenza outbreak.
Some nursing homes are dispensing Tamiflu to residents and any unvaccinated staff if one resident in a particular wing appears to be coming down with the flu.
“If you just have one wing or one area in the nursing home, then if you give it to staff in those areas stops from spreading to the rest of the nursing home,” Siebold said.
Tamiflu fights the flu virus itself. This may help limit the flu’s ability to spread in your body.
In fact, Tamiflu has been clinically proven to help you get better 30 percent, or 1.3 days, faster when taken within 48 hours of first symptoms, according to the drug-maker’s website at www.tamiflu.com.
With increasing amounts of influenza, many hospitals are requiring staff to be immunized.
Beloit Health System adjusted their HR policy this year from a “strong recommendation” to a mandatory request.
“The shots were offered free of charge to all Beloit Health System team members with a very small number of people exempt for severe allergies or religious objections. We had a very high compliance rate,” Starmer said.
Anyone over 6 months of age is recommended to get the flu vaccination in order to prevent the illness from spreading to more vulnerable populations such as seniors, children or those with a weakened immune system.
In Beloit, people can get flu vaccinations at the Rock County Health Department South Office, 61 Eclipse Center, or North Office, Highway 51 North, Janesville. People can schedule appointments by calling 608-364-2010.
At the health department the flu vaccination is $25 for adults and $5 for children. The high dose for seniors 65 and above is $50. The health department accepts Medicaid and Medicare.