Milwaukee County flu cases down thus far, health officials say

Milwaukee city and county health officials said Thursday, Dec. 10 that they are seeing a lower-than-expected number of flu cases thus far this season.

Officials are glad that cases are low right now, but remind people to get a flu vaccine if they haven't already. The flu season spike remains two weeks away, and getting the vaccine would help both individual health and the strain on the health care system.

Cases are lower than they have been in at least four years in the city and county, according to health officials.

"It’s great news that we’re starting on a low point that’s where we want to be," said Dr. Ben Weston with the Milwaukee County Office of Emergency Management.

The Wisconsin Department of Health Services (DHS) announced on Wednesday that it will be putting out PSAs targeting communities of color who, they say, have historically had the lowest flu vaccination rates in the state.

In Milwaukee, Mayor Tom Barrett said a contributing factor to lower flu rates could be a practice adopted as part of COVID-19 mitigation -- social distancing.

"We’ve had a lot of people getting vaccinated for the flu in the City of Milwaukee this year," said Milwaukee Mayor Barrett. "With all this bad news, the one sliver of good news is that there are fewer what I would call traditional flu cases.”

There are still opportunities to get a free flu shot this year. Pharmacists, including at CVS, say there are still plenty available. 

"We certainly don’t want dueling flu and coronavirus epidemics or pandemics going on," Weston said. "We will continue to watch it, but I think we’re at a good starting point.”

Flu vaccines are still available at pharmacies, doctors offices and health centers for free -- even without insurance. Call your doctor, local health center or pharmacy to learn more.

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