Influenza cases still on the rise; very young, elderly most affected
Healthcare providers in Fond du Lac County are seeing significant increases in influenza cases.
Agnesian HealthCare – like other healthcare providers – saw the start of the flu season much earlier this year. This year’s first confirmed case was November 29 – four weeks earlier than the previous year.
In addition, the previous flu season saw a total of 110 positive influenza tests, compared to 228 positive tests to date this season. These numbers do not reflect individuals that have had the influenza without being tested.
The highest rate of hospitalizations have been in individuals 65 years and older, and those less than one year old.
How do you know for sure you have the flu? Influenza is characterized by the abrupt onset of fever, muscle aches, sore throat and a nonproductive cough.
“Influenza can make people of any age ill,” according to Kimberly Mueller, Fond du Lac County Public Health officer. “Although most people are ill with influenza for only a few days, some have a much more serious illness and may need to be hospitalized.”
The influenza virus is generally passed from person to person by airborne transmission, such as sneezing or coughing. The virus can also live for a short time on objects, such as doorknobs, pens, pencils, keyboards, telephone receivers, and eating or drinking utensils.
There are two main types of influenza viruses A and B. Influenza types A and B are responsible for epidemics of respiratory illness that occur almost every winter, and are often associated with increased rates for hospitalization and death. Efforts to control the impact of influenza are focused on types A and B.
Getting a flu vaccine is the most effective prevention again the flu. Vaccine is recommended for everyone six months old and up. As infants less than six months old are too young to get a vaccine, it is crucial that anyone who lives with, or has contact with infants up to six months be vaccinated.
“The 2012-2013 flu vaccine will provide a line of protection against all flu strains, including the 2009 H1N1 virus,” according to Kayla Ericksen, infection preventionist with Agnesian HealthCare. Ericksen also notes that vaccinated individuals might still develop influenza, but will experience less severe symptoms than those who forego vaccination all together.
“It takes two weeks for the vaccine to become a factor in preventing the flu,” Ericksen says. “But it’s never too late. As long as flu viruses are still spreading in the community, vaccination can help protect you.”
Individuals are encouraged to follow these preventive measures to protect themselves and those around them from getting and/or spreading influenza:
- Stay home if you are sick.
- Wash your hands often with soap and water, or use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer
- Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue or your upper sleeve. If you use a tissue, throw it away after one use.
- Use your own drinking cups and straws.
- Avoid being exposed to people who are sick with influenza-like symptoms.
- Frequently clean commonly touched surfaces such as door knobs, refrigerator handles, telephones and faucets, microwave and copier buttons.
Call your provider if you need guidance with any of these typical flu symptoms: fever (usually high), headache, extreme tiredness, dry cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, muscle aches, and stomach symptoms, such as nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea. Most flu patients should not go to the Emergency Department since there is little that can be done for them, and they will likely be sent home; contact your personal healthcare provider instead.
Seek medical care right away if you or a loved one has any of the following signs or symptoms:
- Fast breathing or trouble breathing
- Bluish or gray skin color
- Not drinking enough fluids
- Severe or constant vomiting
- Not waking up or not interacting
- Being so irritable that he or she does not want to be held
- Flu-like symptoms that get better, and then return and get worse
- Difficulty breathing or shortness of breath
- Pain or pressure in the chest or abdomen
- Sudden dizziness
- Severe or persistent vomiting
- Flu-like symptoms improve but then return with fever and worse cough
For more information on influenza, influenza vaccine and its availability, contact your healthcare provider or the Fond du Lac County Health Department at (920) 929-3085 or (800) 547-3640.