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Influenza remains a greater concern over Novel Corona Virus
Flu season
“The flu remains a big concern. People are worried about the Novel Corona virus and that’s okay, but the Influenza is real big concern right now.” That was what Grant County Health Department Supervisor Jeff Kindrai shared last week.
The state of Wisconsin has been a buzz with concerns in light of the announcement of an infected Novel Corona Virus patient identified in Wisconsin at the University of Wisconsin Hospital. Despite the serious nature of the virus making its appearance in the Badger State, Kindrai and other health officials are urging people not to forget about taking precautions against influenza.
Influenza has taken a toll on the nation with 68 pediatric deaths reported across the country since October first, with one of those deaths occurring in Wisconsin.
Currently the Center for Disease Control (CDC) has identified Influenza B to be the predominate Influenza virus in Wisconsin. However, it is noted  that an increase in influenza A/HI has also been identified in the state.  According to the CDC, the influenza vaccine composition for the 2019-2020 trivalent vaccine was  A/Brisbane/02/2018 (H1N1) pdm 09-like virus (updated), A/Kansas/14/2017 (H3N2)-like virus (updated) and B/Colorado/06/2017-like (Victoria lineage) virus.
“The region is seeing very high levels of influenza,” Kindrai said. “And something that should be noted is we are not even peaking yet in the season.”
Kindrai also shared that the state has been seeing a much higher number of hospitalizations associated with this influenza compared to the past.
Across the nation, the CDC estimates that so far this season there have been at least 15 million flu illnesses, 140,000 hospitalizations and 8,200 deaths from the flu. It’s the tenth straight week flu activity is above baseline normal (2.4 percent). Last year, levels of ILI in the U.S. were at or above baseline for 21 straight weeks.
At the time of the most recent report, nearly half of the state has been vaccinated against influenza.
“It’s been a mixed match,” Kindrai shared. “It worked very well for some populations, better than others. But it’s always a guessing game when working to develop the new vaccination. Locally, there was a bit of a delay in the high dose vaccination, so there was a lag in some populations getting vaccinated right away. The CDC recommends people getting vaccinated right away when the vaccine becomes available. But, if you haven’t been vaccinated yet, you can still vet vaccines for this year. It may help lessen your likelihood of getting influenza.”
Wisconsinites should also continue to follow standard precautions against the virus and other illnesses, Kindrai explains.
“Stay home when you’re sick! Wash your hands very well, cover when you cough, keep a social distance if you believe you are ill, particularly if you will be coming in contact with those six months or younger, the elderly, or very large groups.”
Symptoms to keep a look out for include fever, muscle aches and tiredness.
“Nausea and diarrhea are not the flu,” Kindrai added. “Really, the feelings of being extremely tired and sore muscles with the fever are the big ones to look out for.”
Although the risk for most in the state to contract the Novel Corona virus is low, Kindrai shared that its symptoms can appear much like influenza and that helping to prevent its spread can be done the same as helping to prevent the spread of influenza. Stay home, wash your hands, and cover when you cough.
“There are a lot of different Corona Viruses that spread,”Kindrai said. “This one is Novel and people don’t have the immune protection to it yet so it can spread very quickly. It is why you are seeing many hospitals pop up in a matter of days in China, which is incredible. However, a lot of the symptoms of the flu are the same as the Novel Corona virus. And people who succumb to it, largely have had other major underlying illnesses.”
According to the CDC “the 2019 Novel Corona Virus (2019-nCoV) is a virus identified as the cause of an outbreak of repository illness first detected in Wuhan, China. Early on,  many of the patients in the outbreak in Wuhan, China reportedly had some link to a large seafood and animal market, suggesting animal to person spread. However, a growing number of patients reportedly have not had exposure to animal markets, indicating a person-to-person spread is occurring.”
The CDC echoes Kindrai’s note of what to do to help stem the spread of illnesses: Avoid close contact with sick people, while sick, limit contact with others as much as possible, stay home if you are sick, cover your mouth, clean and disinfect surfaces and objects that may be contaminated with germs, and wash your hands often.  The CDC adds “If you feel sick with fever, cough or difficulty breathing and have traveled to China or were in close contact with someone with the 2019-nCoV in the 14 days before you began to feel sick, seek medical care. Before you go to a doctor’s office or emergency room, call ahead and tell them about your recent travel and your symptoms.”
The CDC  also issued a list of what not to do, as it pertains to the 2019 Novel Corona Virus.
“Do not travel to China, do not use face masks. The CDC does not recommend the use of face masks for the general public to prevent the spread of 2019-nCoV and do not show prejudice to people of Asian descent, because of fear of this new virus. Do not assume that someone of Asian descent is more likely to have 2019-nCoV. All persons in the U.S.,including those of Asian descent,who have not traveled to China or been in contact with someone with a confirmed or suspected nCoV case in the last 14 days are at low risk of becoming sick.”
During a media conference officials from the Wisconsin Department of Health on Thursday, Feb. 6 also addressed the Novel Corona Virus.
All three officials, Jeanne Ayers, State Health Officer and Administrator of the DHS Division of Public Health, Tom Haupt, Respiratory Disease Epidemiologist and Traci DeSalvo, Communicable diseases epidemiology section chief all continued to reiterate “the risk remains low for Wisconsin,” when it comes to the Novel Corona Virus.
Furthermore, the officials spent significant amounts of time emphasizing the message that “Ethnicity does not influence transmission of the Novel Corona Virus. It is travel history and direct close contact with confirmed cases.
Six UW-Platteville students who had recently been to Wuhan were deemed clear of the virus following monitoring.
It was reported by WPR that the exchange students had been screened at O’Hare International Airport in Chicago as well.
The Wisconsin Department of Health Services reported last Wednesday that the patient identified only as a Dane County resident who is the first confirmed case of the virus in Wisconsin has been isolated at home. The patient went straight from a local airport to the UW Hospital to be tested. From there, they were transported to their home in Dane County, where they will stay until they are no longer infected.  At the time of this story, the Wisconsin DHS has cleared the 15 others who met the criteria for testing and noted that the one confirmed case seemed to have very mild symptoms and was making a smooth recovery.  

“We just have to try to prepare for it,” Kindrai said.  “Everything you’d do to prevent Influenza you can do, except for vaccinate, at this time. We are monitoring for developing cases, but we are at a very low risk right now.”