Free Flu shots

In one of its traveling fall flu clinics, the Jefferson County Health Department offered free flu shots or nasal spray at West Elementary School last Wednesday afternoon. Pictured here, a flu clinic official sits down to assist mom Megan Carstens, a Jefferson teacher, and her children, from left, Michael, 6 months old; Julie, age 5; and Anna, age 3. Those children who braved the shot or nasal dose received a coupon for free custard at Culver’s Restaurant.

JEFFERSON — Influenza hospitalizations are up in the area and state overall, with one child’s death attributed to the respiratory illness, according to the Wisconsin Division of Public Health.

Jefferson County is within the area of the state marking “high levels” of influenza as of Jan. 4, Division of Public Health information indicated.

At the same time, only slightly more than one-third of residents have been vaccinated against the flu.

Fortunately, there have been no deaths attributed to the illness here, said Gail Scott, director of the Jefferson County Health Department.

It is difficult to get a handle on the number of people in the area suffering from influenza, as these statistics are only recorded if the person is hospitalized due to the condition, Scott said.

Jefferson County has recorded fewer than five reported cases of hospitalizations due to influenza since Jan. 6, and not all have been confirmed, as they remain under investigation, Scott said.

Anecdotally, though, the past few weeks definitely have seen an upsurge in influenza-like illnesses.

Jefferson County is inside the “high level” area within Wisconsin, concentrated in the southern part of the state. Regionally, Wisconsin and Illinois are showing higher rates of influenza than other surrounding states, Division of Health information indicates.

The same source notes that Influenza B and RSV are the predominant viruses active in the state at this time.

As of late last week, reported influenza cases were continuing to rise in the state and region, with related hospitalizations also rising.

Information from the Division of Public Health noted that slightly fewer people had received flu vaccinations this year (2019-20) than had in the previous year (2018-19).

Last Friday, the state released the news that a Wisconsin child had died from influenza, marking the state’s first pediatric flu-related death of the season.

Officials said the child was under 10 years old and died on the way to a hospital in southeastern Wisconsin. They did not know if the child was vaccinated, as the child had moved to Wisconsin just a couple months ago.

State officials said that the affected child tested positive for influenza B, the strain that’s been rapidly spreading and has been increasingly problematic nationwide, particularly in younger patients.

According to information shared by the Associated Press, Department of Health Services influenza surveillance coordinator Tom Haupt said 622 people have been hospitalized for the flu and flu-related complications in Wisconsin this season. Of those, 97 were placed in intensive care. He added that 60 percent of the hospital admissions involved people under age 65.

Health officials say that flu season typically peaks in February.

Haupt said the best way to prevent the flu from spreading is to get vaccinated.

State statistics show that this year, 34 percent of the residents of Jefferson County received the flu shot.

Health officials strongly recommend getting the shot, with the caveat that it will not prevent all cases of the flu. The shot is calibrated differently each year depending on which strains of the flu officials think will be most prominent, but exposure to other strains of the flu is always possible.

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