Flu cases in Milwaukee up significantly from year ago; 611 hospitalizations so far this season

Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett

MILWAUKEE -- There have been 611 hospitalizations as a result of the flu this season in the City of Milwaukee -- significantly higher than this time one year ago -- when officials noted 140 hospitalizations. Additionally, there's a second strain set to peak in the next few weeks.

"It makes me nervous every year. I somehow dodge it every year," Megan Casey, nanny said.

Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett on Monday, Feb. 12 urged all residents of the city to get their flu shots -- even if they consider themselves healthy. He also said people should take steps to prevent from getting the flu as well as spreading the flu.

Dr. Patricia McManus

This, after controversial statements made by Interim Health Commissioner Patricia McManus regarding vaccinations in general.

The mayor noted the flu season is tracked from October through May. Type A flu, the most common form right now, has apparently already reached its peak in the City of Milwaukee. However, complications from the flu can linger for weeks. But Barrett indicated Type B influenza cases have increased and are expected to peak in the next few weeks.

"Type B influenza are increasing and are expected to peak in the next few weeks. If you don't care about yourself, that's one thing, but you should care about others you come into daily contact with," Barrett said.

"As a Health Department, we are still pushing for people to get vaccinated," Tiffany Barta, director of nursing with the Milwaukee Health Department said.

The push for vaccinations Monday came after McManus, approved as the health commissioner by the Milwaukee Common Council, said in a radio interview last week the "science is still out" when it comes to the link between MMR vaccinations and autism. McManus later clarified her statements -- encouraging vaccinations.

"There is no question. There is no link between the vaccinations, between measles and mumps and autism," Barrett said Monday.

As for McManus, Barrett said he'll make a decision regarding her appointment by Thursday, Feb. 15.

Influenza map (PHOTO: Wisconsin Department of Health Services)

Meanwhile, health officials in a press release Monday offered these steps to help protect yourself and your loved ones from the flu:

  1. Get vaccinated. It’s not too late to get the flu shot. Health officials recommend flu vaccine for all individuals over 6 months of age. The vaccine protects against multiple strains of the flu, and can help prevent you from getting the flu, help prevent the spread of influenza, or help reduce the severity of symptoms if you do get sick. Health officials noted Monday there are still plenty of flu shots available and the flu shot will likely prevent the spread of Type B influenza more effectively than the previous Type A strain.
  2. Prevent the spread.
  3. Cover your coughs and sneezes with your elbow, and wash your hands frequently. The flu virus is spread through the air when someone who is sick coughs, sneezes, or speaks. Washing your hands frequently with soap and water, or using alcohol-based hand sanitizers, can also help prevent the spread.
  4. Stay home from work or school when sick. If you are experiencing symptoms of seasonal flu, including fever, cough, sore throat, stuffy nose, muscle or body aches, and fatigue, stay home from work or school, get rest, and drink plenty fluids.

If you are at risk for complications, or if your symptoms persist or worsen, contact your health care provider, and take antiviral medications if prescribed by your doctor. Antiviral medications can reduce the severity and duration of illness in individuals at risk for complications associated with the flu, especially for those with persistent or severe symptoms.

To find a flu vaccine clinic near you, use the Flu Vaccine Finder at milwaukee.gov/health.

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