Healthcare providers in the Fond du Lac area are seeing increased influenza cases since the holidays.
“Influenza can make people of any age ill,” according to Kayla Ericksen, infection preventionist with Agnesian HealthCare. “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.”
So far, all the positive influenza tests from Agnesian HealthCare have been the H1N1 strain, which was included in this year’s vaccine. Ericksen also notes that the H1N1 strain this year appears to be causing illness in children to middle-aged adults however any age can be affected by this strain.
“We hope this information will encourage people who are still unvaccinated to get their vaccine,” says Kimberly Mueller, Fond du Lac County public health officer. “While influenza is already affecting individuals in our communities, it is not too late to take action. It takes about two weeks after receiving vaccine to build up your immunity.”
A recent report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) highlights the benefits flu vaccine can provide, estimating conservatively that influenza vaccination prevented 79,000 hospitalizations and 6.6 million illnesses last season.
The report also underscores how severe flu can be; it includes an estimate that 381,000 Americans were hospitalized from the flu last season.
Despite the benefits of vaccination and the potential severity of the flu, the CDC also reports that fewer than half of Americans have gotten vaccinated so far this season.
Vaccine is recommended for everyone six months old and up. 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.
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.
The influenza virus is generally passed from person to person by a droplet 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.
Individuals are encouraged to follow these preventive measures to protect themselves and those around them from getting and/or spreading influenza:
- If sick with flu-like illness, stay home for at least 24 hours after fever is gone except to get medical care or for other necessities. Fever should be gone without use of a fever-reducing medicine.
- 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. Children might also have stomach symptoms, such as nausea, vomiting and diarrhea. With guidance from your provider, you may be able to care for yourself at home.
Individuals with flu symptoms can be treated by their providers using antiviral medications to help decrease the severity and duration of influenza symptoms. These medications work best if started within two days after symptoms started.
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.