FOND DU LAC – While still at the beginning of the season, so far, 72 Wisconsin residents tested positive for the feared flu virus, state health officials said.

If you have not received your flu shot, now is the time, said Kim Mueller, Fond du Lac County Public Health Officer. Between 30 and 40 people are tested for the virus every week and the clock is on for the scourge of cold weather that can take their victims to bed – sometimes for up to a week, even two.

No confirmed cases were reported until November 21, but annual flu activity is more common between December and February.

Influenza is a respiratory disease that can cause fever, cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, muscle aches and / or headache.

There are several types of influenza viruses and the vaccines have been updated to better match the current strains that circulate this season. This year's vaccine contains two strains each of type A and B, Mueller said.

Influenza type A usually circulates at the beginning of the season, followed by Type B strains, so it is possible to contract influenza more than once. The Wisconsin Department of Health is reporting that 86% of current confirmed cases have been identified as Type A.

379 people died of flu in Wisconsin last year

Last year, influenza struck the country, with widespread outbreaks across the country. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention ranked the Wisconsin flu as severe, with 379 people dying of the disease and more than 7,500 hospitalized.

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Vaccines struggled to protect themselves against a particularly aggressive H3N2 flu and hospitals reported the lack of some basic supplies – even before dealing with an outbreak of influenza-related hospitalizations. Patients were told to stay home and not visit the doctor unless it was an emergency.

Mueller said much of this can be avoided with the preventive step of an immunization before the flu spreads through a community. This not only protects the receiver, she said, but everyone with whom they come in contact.

"The beginning of the holiday is coming and we will see more elderly relatives and families with new babies," she said. "While there are people who say they never get sick, they can carry the virus and pass it on to someone less fortunate."

Babies, toddlers, and the elderly are at increased risk, said Brenda Grass, an internist in pediatrics and medicine at Agnesian HealthCare. These are the groups of people who have more complications of the flu, such as pneumonia, and are more likely to be hospitalized.

Last year, the CDC reported 179 deaths in the pediatric influenza population. With the exception of the 2009 pandemic, pediatric deaths from 2017-18 were the highest since 2004, and 49% occurred in previously healthy children, according to Agnesian.

The earliest a child can receive the flu vaccine is six months of age.

Vaccines not only protect an individual, but prevent the spread of the flu, health experts say

It takes about 10 to 14 days after a vaccine before a person gains full immunity, but it begins to increase immunity immediately, Mueller said. Even a small accumulation of antibodies can decrease the severity and duration of the disease.

Typical symptom relief includes fluid intake and rest. The general rule is to stay home from school or work until you have no fever for at least 24 hours without using medication to reduce fever.

If influenza is diagnosed within 48 hours, Tamiflu, an antiviral agent, may be prescribed and can sometimes shorten the course of the flu illness, Grass said.

Along with the flu vaccine, prevention consists of good hygiene habits. The virus can live for short periods on surfaces such as doorknobs, toys, pens or pencils, keyboards, phones, tablets and benches. It can also be passed through shared utensils and drinks.

"Preventing the flu is like preventing any viral illness," Grass said. "Washing your hands well, not sharing food or drink and keeping your daily environment clean will help."

Each year, the Fond du Lac County Health Department visits 55 public and private county schools to provide free flu vaccines. About 30 percent of parents take advantage of the service, Mueller said.

The cost of a flu vaccine through the Department of Health is $ 30 per dose, and a high-dose vaccine (age 65 or older) is $ 75. Nasal haze is not recommended nor available year.

Vaccines are available from 8:30 am to 4:00 pm. Monday through Friday, on the third floor of the City County Government Center, 160 South Macy St.

Vaccines are also available at local pharmacies.

A vaccine clinic is scheduled from 3:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m. on Dec. 10 at the Department of Health.

When it comes to someone who can not afford to get a flu vaccination, the Department of Health and St. Agnes Hospital team up to help individuals who are experiencing a disability that does not qualify for Health Care, or insurance that does not covers that.

If someone falls into this gap, contact the Health Department at 920-929-3085 and your staff will work on individual situations to meet your specific needs.

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