Milwaukee Health Department: Decrease in hospital visits for flu

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MILWAUKEE (WITI) – Although seasonal influenza remains widespread across the country, including in Wisconsin, the City of Milwaukee Health Department has recorded a decrease hospital emergency department visits for influenza-like illness over the past week. 

At this time, a total of 280 hospitalizations within the city have been reported to the MHD compared to 93 one year ago. Hospitalizations remain highest for individuals ages 65 and above and younger than 1 year of age.

"I believe we've crested the peak of the influenza epidemic in this community. Hospitalizations will be go up for another week or so because of a lag in reporting. I fully anticipate we may see some deaths reported in the coming week or weeks particularly in the adult population," Paul Biedryzicki with the Milwaukee Health Department said.

Each year, approximately 200,000 hospitalizations related to flu-like illness are reported nationwide. 

Older flu victims and those in nursing homes have kept Bell Ambulance so busy it is adding extra personnel and advising staff to not only get flu shots, but to wear face masks to stop the spread of the flu.

"The primary reason for a our increase in call volume is the 65 and older population and the nursing home population -- a lot of these folks are not able to get themselves to the hospital when they're healthy let alone when they're sick," a Bell Ambulance representative said.

The MHD urges area residents to help prevent the spread of the flu as the season progresses. 

The flu vaccine remains the best way to protect your health, and it is not too late to get vaccinated. Officials say out of 130 million vaccine doses nationwide, 120 million have already been used. 10 million doses are still available.

The vaccine is recommended for all individuals over six months of age, especially those at greatest risk for serious complications, including adults 65 and older, children younger than five, and pregnant women.

"We conducted a survey randomly of different pharmacies and health care providers (Tuesday). The majority, over 80% report they still have the vaccine and anti-virals available to the public so it appears the supply of vaccine and anti-virals is currently meeting public demand," Biedryzicki said.

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