"20 people have already been hospitalized:" State health officials urge residents to get flu shot

MADISON (WITI) -- As 20 people, including children and the elderly, have already been hospitalized in Wisconsin due to seasonal influenza this flu season,  state health officials are encouraging Wisconsin residents to get flu shots to help protect against seasonal influenza.  According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, everyone aged six months and older should be vaccinated annually.

“The best way to help protect yourself from complications that can be caused by the flu, such as pneumonia or hospitalization, is to get the flu vaccine,” said Karen McKeown, State Health Officer. “At this point in the flu season, we normally have one or two people who have been hospitalized due to seasonal influenza; however, this year 20 people have already been hospitalized. We are monitoring the situation and getting the word out about the importance of being vaccinated.”

To get your flu shot, contact your health care provider, local public health department or tribal health clinic, or go to www.flu.gov to find a flu vaccination center near you. According to the CDC, influenza vaccine will continue to be shipped to Wisconsin throughout the flu season.

Flu season for Wisconsin generally runs from late October to May, with peak activity around late January or early February.

Influenza is a contagious respiratory disease caused by a virus. The flu vaccine helps prevent complications that can be caused by the flu, such as pneumonia or hospitalization. With few exceptions, officials recommend that individuals aged six months and older be immunized. Getting vaccinated against influenza is especially important for people aged 50 and older, and those with underlying health conditions. Getting vaccinated is equally important for those who have frequent contact with young children, as children are hospitalized or die from flu complications each year in the U.S.

“By getting a flu shot, you are not only protecting yourself, you are also protecting loved ones who may be in a high-risk group,” McKeown said.

Influenza can range from mild to severe, and in some cases can cause life-threatening complications. Symptoms can come on quickly and include fever, headache, dry cough, sore throat, nasal congestion, body aches and tiredness.

To protect yourself and those around you from getting the flu, health officials suggest taking the following steps:

    If you think you have the flu, call your doctor. Stay home, rest, drink plenty of liquids, and avoid using alcohol and tobacco. If your symptoms persist, contact your doctor.

    To learn more about influenza, visit http://www.dhs.wisconsin.gov/communicable/influenza/. Data about the current flu season is available at http://www.dhs.wisconsin.gov/communicable/influenza/Reports/Surveillance.htm.