Cases of influenza across Wisconsin have been growing at a rapid rate in recent weeks. Figures released by the CDC Friday show the state is one of 35 in the U.S. where the flu is now considered to be “widespread,” meaning there are active outbreaks in all regions.
According to the state Department of Health Services, there have been 776 hospitalizations from the virus this flu season, with 273 of those occurring in just the last week. Of those, two-thirds of the hospitalizations have involved residents over the age of 65, with multiple outbreaks in long-term care facilities.
“We’re seeing influenza among all age groups,” says Wisconsin influenza surveillance coordinator Tom Haupt. “In particular, those over 65 years old are being effected very harshly.”
The holiday season is largely to blame for the spike, says Haupt, as people go to parties and family gatherings despite feeling ill. He says anyone who is showing symptoms of the flu should consider staying home, rather than risk infecting others.
Haupt says the best thing people can do to protect themselves right now is to get vaccinated, since there is an ample supply of the flu shot available. While some reports have argued the vaccine is only 10 percent effective, Haupt notes that number is based on an evaluation of the flu season in the southern hemisphere. The U.S. rate will not be calculated until next year.