Public health officials are warning area residents that this year’s flu season started early and has seen more than double the number of cases.
“Schools, hospitals, nursing homes and clinics are all seeing an uptick in influenza cases,” according to Linda Behm, a nurse manager with the Waupaca County Health and Human Services Department.
Behm said hospitals are reporting between 50 and 100 influenza cases a week.
During the last flu season, there were a total of 389 hospitalizations statewide due to the flu. That figure is already over 800 cases.
“This is just our first blip,” Behm said. “The flu season usually peaks the last week of January or the first week of February,”
Behm said schools have been reporting flu outbreaks since Thanksgiving.
“Teachers are sending kids home if they notice they are sick,” Behm said.
She said parents should be alert for symptoms of the flu. Children who have a sudden onset of coughing, fever, body aches, sore throat and sneezing should stay home.
Behm said Wisconsin has seen one pediatric fatality as a result of the flu.
There have been no flu-related fatalities in Waupaca County.
Behm said adults should also stay home if they have the flu in order to help stop the spread of the virus.
Two area health care providers, ThedaCare and Affinity Health System, are reporting high levels of illness, including influenza, pneumonia and norovirus.
“It’s the classic time of year for people to get sick,” said Miki Gould, infection prevention specialist with ThedaCare. “People spent a lot of time in close contact with friends and family during the holidays, which can help spread illnesses. We want everyone to stay healthy by following a few simple steps such as washing your hands and limiting your contact with others who may be ill. This means staying home from work or school when you’re experiencing symptoms.”
Behm also stressed frequent handwashing or to use a hand sanitizing gel when a washroom is not available.
She recommended that people contact their health care providers about getting a flu shot.