What you need to know about the flu

We keep hearing how severe the flu season is this season.

Carol Bess, Infection Prevention Team Leader at Bellin Health joined Pete Petoniak will some detailed information.

We’ve been hearing a lot about this year’s flu season. How bad is it locally?

• Our Emergency Department and Urgent Care locations have been busy with flu cases. There has been an uptick in the number of kids with flu in our pediatrics unit and coming into Kid Care (essentially emergency care for kiddos), but overall those cases don't seem more severe than in a given year.

• The severity comment applies more broadly, as well -- though numbers are up, we're not really seeing the severity of cases reported elsewhere in the country. We've had a lot of visits/hospital stays but those individuals are going home.

• We're not hearing much that's unusual from the clinics in terms of flu -- lots of patients are coming into urgent care, Kid Care or the Emergency Department instead.

For whom is the flu most dangerous?

The elderly, very young children and those with comorbidities (chronic conditions that may weaken the immune system) are most at risk.

How can people keep from getting the flu?

• Get your flu shot! It’s not too late to get this year’s vaccine.

• The CDC is recommending everyone to get vaccinated. Even if you have had influenza they are recommending vaccination because there is more than one strain circulating and there have been reported cases of individuals getting influenza again from a different strain.

• Practice good hygiene. Wash your hands frequently with soap and hot water. Use hand sanitizer when you can’t wash.

• Avoid touching your nose and mouth with your hands.

• Cover your cough

• Stay home if you’re sick

• Flu germs can linger on surfaces. Keep home and office surfaces clean with disinfecting wipes.

How effective is this year’s vaccine, versus past years?

• There have been individuals who are getting the flu, even if they have been vaccinated.

• We still encourage people to get the vaccine. Though not as effective as perhaps we’d like, it still provides protection. And if you do get the flu, having gotten the vaccine often makes it less severe.

I understand Bellin has seen an uptick in electronic visits with dosctors lately. Is the flu part of the reason?

• Yes, we had nearly double our usual number of e-visits in January – nearly 140, versus 65 or 70 in a normal month.

• E-visits are a good idea for people who think they might have the flu. They can be seen from home instead of physically coming into the clinic. This is more convenient for them and can help curb the spread of germs.

What other infectious diseases are we seeing this time of year? This is respiratory season, so there are many respiratory viruses circulating this time of year. The predominant viruses right now are influenza and RSV (Respiratory syncytial virus).

Any final message for those who are nervous about the flu?

I can’t say it enough – get your flu shot! Practice good hygiene and do your part to help stop the spread of the flu.

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