Flu cases increasing in Janesville area, health officials say

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Gina Duwe
Friday, January 17, 2014

JANESVILLE--Cases of the flu have increased in the area in the last few weeks, and the illness seems to be hitting younger people harder this year, local health officials say.

“We've seen a pretty rapid up-spike in the number of cases,” said Dr. Keith Konkol, Mercy Health System's director of infectious diseases.

Since the end of December, several people have been admitted to the hospital with influenza, he said.

The predominant flu strain this season has been the H1N1, doctors say, and the flu vaccine does protect against it.

“It looks like it's affecting young people a little more than elderly people,” Konkol said.

Pregnant women also are more vulnerable, he added. 

Dr. Jon Van Roo, medical director at St. Mary's Janesville Hospital emergency department, also has seen the flu hit younger people harder this year.

In terms of numbers, however, both doctors say this season has been similar to other years.

Typical flu symptoms include sore throat, fever, runny nose, fatigue, headache and muscle ache. People who get the flu should stay home until 24 hours after their fevers are gone, Konkol said.

Only 25 percent of all Rock County residents received the flu vaccine this season, said Karen Cain, county health officer. She was surprised that the number was that high but said she'd like to see it at 50 to 60 percent.

People have access to the vaccine at many places, she said.

“It just means we need to keep working at it,” she said.

It's still important for people to get the vaccine because the flu likely will continue to spread for another month to six weeks, Konkol said.

“Most of the cases we've seen have been people who have not been vaccinated,” he said.

People sometimes mistakenly think the vaccine doesn't work if they still get sick after getting shots, Van Roo said. A person still might get symptoms, but the person will have them for a shorter time, and they won't be as bad, he said.

Good and frequent hand washing also is critical for prevention, Van Roo said.

For the first time, Mercy this year made it mandatory that all employees get flu shots, Konkol said. The health system has had good success, he said, and he didn't think any employees had come down with the flu.

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