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Influenza numbers continue to rise nationally and statewide

CRAWFORD COUNTY - Although the novel corona virus spreading in China is gathering a lot of attention and there is one case reported in Wisconsin, the real news affecting most people locally is the spread of Influenza Type A and B.

Wisconsin State Epidemiologist Tom Haupt tried to put the current situation into perspective during a brief interview with the Independent-Scout last Friday.

“It’s new,” Haupt said of the novel corona virus. “That’s why it’s called novel. There are other existing corona viruses. This one has just been discovered. We’re trying to learn how it’s spread. It’s still early in the investigation. Like any new virus it can mutate especially if it spreads quickly.”

The confirmed novel corona virus case in Wisconsin is a woman who returned to Madison from China, where she visited to celebrate Chinese New Year, according to Haupt. The infected woman was quarantined for 14 days and has presumably recovered from the virus at this point.

Beyond the interest in the corona virus, the immediate danger to Wisconsin residents is the severe onset of seasonal influenza this year, according to Haupt and host of other health officials.

“There’s been a major increase in the past week,” Haupt said. “We had 3,000 diagnosed influenza cases last week.”

There have been 30 deaths directly attributed to influenza in Wisconsin  this flu season, which started last October. There were 335 hospitalizations for influenza in Wisconsin last week, as reported by the Wisconsin Department of Health Services.

Nationally, the CDC (Center for Disease Control)  recently reported that so far this season there have been at least 15 million flu illnesses. This has resulted in 140,000 hospitalizations and 8,200 deaths attributed to influenza. Those statistics were reported in the tenth straight week of flu activity that was above the baseline normal of 2.4 percent. Last year, the Influenza Like Illnesses (ILI) in the U.S. were at or above the baseline for 21 straight weeks.

Both in Wisconsin and nationally, the current rise in influenza cases is showing increasing amounts of Type A. The season began with lots of Type B cases, but that is changing.

Crawford County Public Health Nurse Cindy  Riniker confirmed that is the case. She noted that generally the first cases of the season are Type A and Type B starts later. This year that pattern reversed–it began with B and is now changing to A.

Rinker and almost everybody else involved with combatting influenza infection, including Tom Haupt, is urging people to get flu shots and try to fight the spread of the disease by washing hands and avoiding spreading the disease by covering mouths when coughing and staying home to stop spreading the infection.

Riniker said the Crawford County Public Health Department no longer had vaccine for adults, but did have it for children under seven. The public health nurse said she was pretty confident that flu vaccine was still available at pharmacies and clinics in the area.

Vernon Memorial Healthcare Infection Prevention Coordinator Romelle Heisel reported the hospital had some admissions recently for people suffering from influenza.

“We are continuing to see cases of Influenza A and B,” Heisel said. “The majority of these cases are in the outpatient setting. Last week, we began to see admissions for Influenza A, which were short stays, and several have returned home already.  

“We continue to stress good hand hygiene, covering your cough, cleaning and (if no contraindications to it) there is still seasonal influenza vaccine available. The CDC is recommending these as ways to reduce or decrease exposure or illness.”

Flu shots are still available at all of the VMH Clinics: Soldiers Grove - Kickapoo Valley Medical Clinic;
Viroqua - Hirsch Clinic and VMH Family Practice & Complementary Medicine;
La Farge - La Farge Medical Clinic; Westby - Bland Clinic.

So, Wisconsin residents should probably prepare for Influenza Type A and stay tuned for news about the novel corona virus that continues to evolve in China.

Wisconsin State Epidemiologist Tom Haupt believes the state is now in the thick of influenza season, but not at the peak yet.