Flu makes a late run in the area

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BELOIT - A late-season flu bug is biting the Greater Beloit area in line with state trends, according to Beloit Health System Infection Control Coordinator Janet Ryan.

The flu continues to pick up momentum.

In January, Beloit Health System (BHS) had 65 patients who tested positive for flu. In February, 93 tested positive, and by March 11, 109 patients had tested positive for the flu.

In February, BHS had 10 people in the hospital admitted with the flu. So far in March it has had 19 patients hospitalized due to the flu.

To prevent the spread of flu in the hospital, Ryan said cough stations are set up at each entrance to patient care areas where hand sanitizer and masks are available for visitors. There are also signs reminding people to use cough etiquette, and people are urged to stay home if they are ill.

Ryan said the very old and young are most vulnerable against the flu, along with anyone who has chosen to not be vaccinated or those with other immune compromising conditions.

"Hand washing is the number one way to prevent the spread of disease or infection," Ryan added.

Influenza activity remains elevated in the United States and is expected to remain elevated for a number of weeks, according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) at https://www.cdc.gov.

Influenza A/H1N1 and A/H3N2 are circulating in Wisconsin. The predominant strain this week was A/H3N2. There have been 284 flu-associated hospitalizations reported this week, according to the Wisconsin Department of Health Services Division of Public Health weekly respiratory virus surveillance report ending March 2.

From Sept. 1, 2018 to March 2, there have been 1,300 influenza related hospitalizations in Wisconsin. Of those, 939 were an unknown strain of A; 136 were H1N1 (strain A); 50 were H3N2 (strain A); and 76 were those with influenza strain B.

Recent studies show that flu vaccination reduces the risk of flu illness by between 40 and 60 percent. The effectiveness of flu vaccines can be lower among some older people particularly against influenza A(H3N2) viruses, according to the CDC.

Although there is a spike in flu, the state flu rates are lower than previous years, Ryan noted.

Michelle Babilius, director of school health services with the School District of Beloit, said this district has been fortunate this year when it comes to influenza.

"There has not been a significant impact overall. There have been some cases, but nothing compared to last year. The nurses have been seeing more gastrointestinal issues going around," she said.

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