The number of flu cases reported statewide and in Racine is on the rise, according to officials with the Wisconsin Department of Health Services.

The flu season in Wisconsin hasn’t been nearly as bad as the 2014-2015 flu season, which peaked at about 3,200 people infected with the flu requiring hospitalization the third week in January.  This year, the state is at about 1,900 cases of flu-related hospitalizations as of Jan. 6. But the number of people being hospitalized for the flu is still much higher than last year, which was at about 350 cases.

Flu cases likely to increase

The flu season typically lasts from September to May, but peaks in Wisconsin around February, according to a story by WISN Channel 12.

“I don’t believe we’re at peak activity yet. I think we’re perhaps we’re a week or two away,” state epidemiologist Tom Haupt told Channel 12.

Locally, the flu season is ramping up as more people are being hospitalized with the flu. According to the City of Racine Health Department, the number of people hospitalized with the flu ranged between 15 and 23 between 2012 through 2016. But in 2017, the number skyrocketed to 48 cases with 24 of those cases being reported in December.

“Every year thousands of people in the U.S. die from the flu, usually from complications such as pneumonia,” said Margaret Gesner, health officer with the Central Racine County Health Department. “Racine County residents should take the virus seriously and take these measures to prevent infection.”

Preventing the flu

Health professionals recommend getting a flu vaccine. They also advocate practicing good health habits, including washing your hands, eating right, getting enough sleep and quitting smoking.

They also strongly encourage the following groups receive the flu vaccination:

  • People 65 years old and older.
  • People with chronic health issues, like heart disease and diabetes.
  • Pregnant women. The flu shot protects the mom-to-be and provides protection for her baby for several months after birth.
  • People who are around other people at work or school.

This year, however, health officials warn that the vaccine this year is only about 10 percent effective, according to a story by CBS News.

Regardless, getting the vaccine will help “ease the severity and duration of symptoms,” according to a story by the Washington Post.

“Children are considered highly vulnerable to the disease. Studies show that for children, a shot can significantly reduce the risk of dying. (The CDC reported that 101 children died of flu-related illness in the 2016-17 season.),” the Washington Post reported.

Need to find a place to get a vaccine? Check out the Center for Disease Control vaccine finder

 

Denise Lockwood has an extensive background in traditional and non-traditional media. She has written for Patch.com, the Milwaukee Business Journal, Milwaukee Magazine and the Kenosha News.