Wisconsin has seen 459 hospitalizations for influenza this season, more than three times as many than at this time the previous year, according to the Wisconsin Department of Health Services. Admissions to intensive care units for respiratory illnesses have increased. And already 11 Wisconsinites have died due to complications from influenza.
The hospitalizations and deaths are a sober reminder that flu is not only dangerous; it can be deadly. Everyone is encouraged to get a flu immunization. That’s to protect themselves as well as everyone around them from serious illness. The flu shot can help prevent the virus, and greatly reduces symptoms if someone does contract the flu. That will shorten time away from work or school. The “flu vaccine finder” will help locate a pharmacy providing flu shots; visit vaccinefinder.org for more information.
Everyday habits can also help to avoid catching or spreading the flu.
- Stay home if sick. Someone who has the flu can pass it to friends or family – even before knowing he or she is sick. See a health-care provider if symptoms persist or become worse.
- If visiting someone in a hospital, nursing home or other assisted-living facility, ask a nurse for a mask. Be sure to wash hands or use hand sanitizer. Some facilities may put restrictions on visitors. Check before going.
- Don’t hold or kiss a baby if sick. Babies under 6 months old cannot be given the flu shot.
- Wash hands often with soap and water, or use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
- Cover coughs or sneezes with an upper sleeve; try to avoid touching the face with hands. If a tissue is used, throw it away after one use.
- Use individual drinking cups, straws and utensils; don’t share.
- Eat nutritious meals, have plenty of rest and don’t smoke.
- Frequently clean commonly touched surfaces such as doorknobs, refrigerator handles, telephones and faucets.
The department’s “Weekly Respiratory Report” provides current information about the current flu season, including case counts.