MILWAUKEE -- Milwaukee County is one of two locations in the country chosen for the launch of a "Flu on Call" toll-free helpline.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and City of Milwaukee Health Department have announced the launch of the helpline -- available to all Milwaukee County residents.
When the flu strikes, you feel miserable.
Now imagine how terribly severe an influenza pandemic could be for a community.
"You'd have hundreds of thousands of people would become ill. Tens of thousands would require hospitalizations and there'd be thousands of deaths," Paul Biedrzycki, director of disease control and environmental health with the City of Milwaukee Health Department said.
Imagine the overwhelming demand at Milwaukee-area hospitals.
"You need to manage that type of morbidity in a community very carefully so you don't overwhelm the health care system," Biedrzycki said.
Health officials are hopeful the solution could be as simple as making a telephone call.
"This is a tool that will help, significantly help local health departments during a severe pandemic influenza. It's a flu phone helpline that people can access for the next six weeks. The last pandemic was in 2009. The next one could be next year," Biedrzycki said.
The technology is being tested in Milwaukee County.
Those in Milwaukee County who are experiencing flu symptoms, caring for someone who is ill, or who have questions related to flu vaccine or flu-related concerns are encouraged to dial the Flu on Call hotline at 1-855-435-8722.
The hotline will be staffed Monday through Saturday from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. for six weeks as part of a pilot project occurring in two cities nationwide. Callers to the hotline will receive support from trained information specialists and medical experts.
"People can get rapid information that includes a medical assessment, medical history and then again referral to a medical provider," Biedrzycki said.
The City of Milwaukee Health Department was selected by the CDC, in collaboration with the National Association of County and City Health Officials (NACCHO) and the Association of State and Territorial Health Officials (ASTHO), to pilot Flu on Call. The project is in partnership with local agencies including IMPACT Inc. and Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin.