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Health

Wisconsin DHS warns of potentially severe flu season, encourages vaccinations

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Last flu season was virtually non-existent.

There were 100 total cases, 21 hospitalizations.

Compare that to the year before where there were 36,000 cases of the flu in Wisconsin and 4,500 hospitalizations.

That lack of a flu season last year is attributed to the strict COVID safety measures that were in place like masking and social distancing.

Now that those measures are gone in most places, DHS Influenza Surveillance Coordinator Tom Haupt said we could potentially be contending with a severe flu season and a high number of COVID cases.

“That could be devastating to the healthcare industry, the hospital industry as well. Hospitals are still at very high capacity, some are full,” said Haupt. “If we continue on to see the trend that we are seeing, which is mainly the highest amount are in pediatric patients, both for COVID and if it’s influenza as well, for those people who were not vaccinated, it could be a devastating year.”

He worries because the flu wasn’t an issue last year, that people won’t take it seriously this year.

“We continue to monitor, not only statewide, but nationwide the flu activity and it does appear that it is increasing quite a bit. To what extent are we going to have an influenza season? We just don’t know. We’re hoping it’s going to be a mild season, but we have to be prepared, get people vaccinated for this potentially serious disease,” Haupt said.

A factor that adds to the severity is the strand of influenza that’s started making its way through the U.S.

Haupt said they’re seeing the influenza AH3 virus.

“Historically, AH3 viruses tend to be more severe on people cause more morbidity and more illnesses. This is the reason why we’re really trying to stress the fact that people getting vaccinated against the flu, especially with the co-circulation of the COVID-19 virus as well,” said Haupt.

Flu vaccination numbers are down so far this year compared to previous years.

Flu cases typically peak towards the end of January or February.

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