Rock and Walworth counties avoid flu while state cases double

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Andrea Anderson
Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Rock and Walworth counties seem to be avoiding the flu while the number of influenza cases and influenza-related hospitalizations in the state are climbing.

The number of flu cases and flu-related hospitalizations doubled during the week leading up to Thanksgiving, but no cases have been reported in Rock or Walworth counties, officials said.

As of Nov. 27, Wisconsin had 62 confirmed cases of influenza and 32 reported hospitalizations, said Tom Haupt, Wisconsin Division of Public Health epidemiologist.

This season "mimics last year," Haupt said.

Like last year, this flu season started early and could peak sometime in December or January.

Historically, the flu season starts the last week of December or the first week of January and peaks at the end of January or beginning of February.

Though this season has a jumpstart, it's too soon to predict which age group will be hit the hardest and how severe the flu season will be.

“The flu wants to do what the flu wants to do,” Haupt said.

The majority of the cases are in the southern and southeastern regions of the state in Dane and Milwaukee counties and heading north.

Seeing pockets with high numbers of influenza cases is normal, said Debbie Erickson, Rock County Health Department public health nurse supervisor.

“Because influenza is so communicable, we typically do see areas where they have a higher incident rate for a certain year because it spreads so easily for different populations,” Erickson said. “Once it's in your area, you have a surge of it.”

In 2012, Rock County had 33 reported cases of the flu. In 2011 it had 18, Erickson said.

The ages of people being hospitalized are across the board. Haupt urged people 6-months-old and older to get vaccinated.

"It's not too late to get the vaccine," Haupt said. "There is still plenty of it around. Get vaccinated to keep yourself healthy ... Also, get the vaccine for the loved ones around you."

So far, influenza A and influenza B strains of the virus are circulating in the state, both of which are covered by the vaccine, Haupt said.

It's too early to predict which strand of the virus will dominate this season.

Last season, influenza A/H3N2 was the predominant strain, hitting hardest people 65 and older.

People 65 and older are more susceptible to the flu because they often have weak immune systems and other chronic illnesses, said Paula Strom, Walworth County Department of Health and Human Services communicable disease nurse.

Last season, Walworth County long-term care facilities were hit hard by the flu, Strom said.

Influenza A/H1N1, the 2009 swine flu strain, is the most prominent strain so far this year. However, that could change as the season progresses.

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