BELOIT — Flu cases are on the upswing in Wisconsin, and health officials urge residents to take precautions to protect against getting sick.
Rock County has seen fewer cases than other areas of the state, but Rock County Public Health Department Nursing Supervisor Deb Erickson said county residents should consider getting a flu shot.
“The best protection against the flu is the flu shot,” Erickson said. “We haven’t seen much flu at all in Rock County, but we know it’s communicable. Once it arrives, it can spread quickly.”
As of Dec. 28, there have been 161 cases of influenza reported in Wisconsin this season, and 95 flu-related hospitalizations, according to data from the Wisconsin Department of Health Services. Those most vulnerable this flu season are the elderly and small children, Erickson stressed.
Of the reported hospitalizations, 78 were adults aged 50 and older, along with eight children. Over 63 percent of those hospitalized with the flu were aged 65 and older.
“Older adults are especially affected,” Erickson said. “We encourage people to stay home when they feel sick, especially if they are running a fever or have flu-like symptoms.”
To prevent against the flu, health officials recommend individuals wash hands often with soap and water, or use alcohol-based hand sanitizer; cover all coughs or sneezes with the upper sleeve, to avoid touching your face with your hand; use personal drinking cups and straws and avoid being exposed to those with flu-like symptoms.
Another proactive step individuals can take would be cleaning commonly touched surfaces and eating nutritious meals, while staying properly hydrated.
“There are so many simple steps people can take now to avoid spreading the flu to family and friends,” said Wisconsin Health Officer Karen McKeown.
The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) states anyone age 6 months or older should be vaccinated annually with a flu shot. Each year, the CDC analyzes trends and various flu strains in the northern hemisphere ahead of releasing the current year’s flu vaccination. Currently the new shot provides protection against four strains of the flu, Erickson said.
“It’s far more than an educated guess,” she added. “There’s a lot of science behind the decisions to put each strain into the shot. It’s not just a shot in the dark.”
To view a list of locations to get a flu shot in the area, visit cdc.gov/flu. For more information of state health tips, visit dhs.wisconsin.gov.
For information about flu shots, contact the Rock County Public Health Department at 608-364-2010 in Beloit, and 608-757-5440 in Janesville.