Local health expert says flu season has not hit peak, 'several weeks' to go

Published: Feb. 14, 2020 at 5:13 PM CST
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A spike in flu cases locally comes as numbers continue to rise statewide.

On Thursday, the Wisconsin Department of Health Services (DHS) announced another child in the southern part of the state died from the illness. It is the second flu-related child death in Wisconsin this flu season.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports 92 child flu-related deaths nationwide this flu season. Those are among 14,000 reported deaths and 250,000 hospitalizations across the country. The agency says at least 26 million flu cases have been diagnosed this season.

One local health expert says this flu season hit earlier compared to others in recent years.

"Our primary care clinics are very busy seeing patients," said Carol Bess, infection prevention team leader at Bellin Health. "The hospital has patients that have been admitted for influenza."

The number of cases is expected to keep rising.

"We hope to hit peak in a couple weeks, but we won't know for sure," said Bess. "Even once we hit peak we're still going to see influenza for several weeks."

Bess urges people to keep getting the flu shot. She calls it one of the most important steps in prevention.

The infection prevention team leader also emphasizes the importance of basic hygiene: "Cover your cough and wash your hands."

Bellin Health offers masks to sick patients who walk through the doors, an item in short supply as COVID-19 also spreads.

"We don't want people that are healthy to walk around wearing masks," said Bess. "That we don't really recommend."

Her best advice for people who feel like they might be sick is simply stay home.

"That's how it spreads when people are out in the community, out and about in gatherings when they're sick," said Bess.

The Gillett School District closed on Friday due to illness. It is the latest district of many in the area to do so in recent weeks.

While the number of flu cases starts to wind down after the season hits a peak, Bess does not expect flu cases to end any time soon.

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