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MADISON — Wisconsin has seen a recent dramatic increase in the number of hospitalizations resulting from influenza, including admissions to intensive care units (ICU), and an increase in the number of young and middle-aged adult patients requiring mechanical ventilation. The influenza virus causing most of these serious infections is the 2009 A/H1N1 virus, the same virus that caused the influenza pandemic during 2009. Once again, state health officials are strongly encouraging Wisconsin residents to get vaccinated against the flu.
“For the best protection against the flu, you need to be vaccinated annually,” said Karen McKeown, State Health Officer. “Getting vaccinated during past years, or having the flu in the past, does not fully protect against this year’s A/H1N1 strain. The good news is that the H1N1 strain in this year’s vaccine is well matched against the 2009 A/H1N1 flu strain and should be very effective.”
Influenza occurrence is approaching peak levels in Wisconsin, making it especially important to get vaccinated now to prevent future cases, McKeown noted. There have already been 565 influenza-associated hospitalizations reported since October 5, with 22 percent admitted to the ICU and 9 percent requiring mechanical ventilation. Notably, 75 percent of these hospitalizations have been reported since December 14. Although deaths caused by influenza are reportable only among pediatric patients, flu-associated fatalities among non-vaccinated young and middle-aged adults have also been noted.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, everyone aged six months and older should be vaccinated annually against influenza. To get flu shots for you and your family, contact your health care provider, pharmacy, local public health department or tribal health clinic, or go to www.flu.gov to find a flu vaccination center near you.
Health officials also recommend these important steps:
• Wash your hands often with soap and water, or use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
• Cover your cough or sneeze with your upper sleeve, and try to avoid touching your face with your hands. If you use a tissue, throw it away after one use.
• Don’t share drinking cups and straws.
• Avoid being exposed to people who are sick with flu-like symptoms.
• Eat nutritious meals, get plenty of rest and do not smoke.
• Frequently clean commonly touched surfaces (e.g., door knobs, refrigerator handle, telephone, faucets).
• If you think you have the flu, stay home, get rest, drink plenty of liquids and avoid using alcohol and tobacco. Contact your doctor about possible treatment for severe or persistent symptoms.
For more information on influenza, visit http://www.dhs.wisconsin.gov/communicable/influenza/index.htm.