Health care workers bracing for flu season, urge vaccinations

Published: Sep. 14, 2021 at 5:59 PM CDT|Updated: Sep. 14, 2021 at 6:24 PM CDT
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GREEN BAY, Wis. (WBAY) - Unlike last year, health care workers don’t expect a mild flu season this fall.

“Last year was an anomaly. We saw very, very little influenza. That was the case throughout the United States,” said Dr. Sarah Lulloff, the Infectious Disease Physician and Medical Director of Infectious Disease for HSHS St. Vincent and St. Mary’s Hospitals in Green Bay.

She said face masks, social distancing and a lack of events last year helped keep influenza cases at bay. However, this year is a different story.

“Things are completely opposite,” she said. “What we are seeing is a variety of other respiratory viruses like RSV (Respiratory Syncytial Virus), parainfluenza, (and) rhino viruses.”

Dr. Lulloff added those cases are sort of a marker for health care workers, leading them to conclude once the flu arrives, there is going to be a spread between people.

“When we’re anticipating having that load on top of what we’re seeing already, it’s a bit intimidating,” she said.

As Action 2 News reported, HSHS--like other hospitals--is near capacity because of COVID-19 and other illnesses. To get head of the spread and to lessen the burden on health care workers, Prevea Health and HSHS hospitals urge people to get their flu shots.

We’re told there is not a need to choose between a COVID or influenza vaccine.

“We know that it’s safe to give other vaccines, in addition to the COVID vaccines, at the same time,” said Dr. Lulloff.

Dr. Joseph McBride, member of the Department of Adult and Pediatric Infectious Disease at UW Madison, said there was a good movement of getting people vaccinated last year, like all years.

“But I worry--I think a lot of people in medicine worry there’s a little bit of vaccine fatigue. ‘Are people going to take a year off from the flu shot because they got their COVID shot?’” said Dr. McBride.

“We can’t lose sight of how impactful influenza is in a normal season,” said Dr. Lulloff.

Flu vaccine appointments are available at Prevea locations in Northeast Wisconsin.

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