February 24, 2017
Earlier this week, the Wisconsin Department of Health Services (DHS) released an announcement that the influenza virus is hitting Wisconsinites hard lately, spiking to 936 confirmed cases as of February 22, 2017, compared to 176 during the same time period last year. The number of cases is monitored each week, and the announcement was released when it was noted that the number of cases increased rapidly over the course of just one week’s time.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that influenza (flu) is a contagious respiratory illness caused by viruses that infect the nose, throat, and lungs. It can cause mild to severe illness, and can lead to hospitalization or even death. Every year in the United States, millions of people are sickened, hundreds of thousands are hospitalized, and thousands or tens of thousands of people die from the flu. Each year, the flu is a little bit different because there are different types of viruses and they change over time.
From the DHS press release, State Health Officer Karen McKeown stated, “At this point, the number of flu cases in Wisconsin has already exceeded the number of cases at the peak of the flu season last year. The flu can be especially harmful for children and people over 65, as well as those with other health problems.”
Fort HealthCare Pediatrics and primary care clinics have also been noting a significant increase in calls to their offices and requests for appointments to check symptoms, particularly in children. While the flu is a virus, and therefore not treatable with antibiotics, there are comfort measures that can be recommended. And certainly through the course of the illness, symptoms can change and you should be aware of when it is time to see a healthcare provider.
Both the CDC and The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) provide downloadable fact sheets on their websites with information and what to look for (symptoms) for the common cold, influenza, ear infections, antibiotics use, immunizations, vaccines, other illnesses and conditions, as well as suggested comfort measures and guidelines for when to seek medical attention.
Fort HealthCare also provides two free searchable online health library databases on its website. One for all ages, available at: krames.forthealthcare.com, and one specifically for children and adolescents through the American Academy of Pediatrics Patient Education database at: FortHealthCare.com/AAPInfo.
The flu can last a week or more. Your child will usually feel the worst during the first two or three days. Flu symptoms include:
Both the flu and colds are caused by viruses. They can have some of the same symptoms. But there are differences.
Extra rest and lots of fluids can help your child feel better. For a child older than two months, you can give them over-the-counter acetaminophen (like Tylenol), or for children older than six months, you can give them Tylenol or ibuprofen (NOT aspirin) to bring a fever down and make them feel more comfortable. Check with your child’s doctor before giving them any other type of medicine, including cold or cough medicines. And remember, antibiotics DO NOT fight the flu.
You should contact your healthcare provider if:
For more information about comfort measures for different conditions, visit the CDC symptom relief webpage at https://www.cdc.gov/getsmart/community/for-patients/symptom-relief.html or contact your healthcare provider for guidance.
The flu spreads very easily, and it usually spreads during the first several days of the illness. Here are some recommended ways to reduce the spread of the flu:
The CDC recommends that the best way and most important step to prevent the flu is by getting a flu vaccine each year for everyone six months of age and older. Flu vaccination can reduce flu illnesses, doctors’ visits, and missed work and school due to flu, as well as prevent flu-related hospitalizations.
In a previous Fort HealthCare blog post, hosted on Fort HealthCare’s website, Fort HealthCare Pharmacy Director, Carl Selvick, addressed three common misconceptions about the flu vaccine:
Selvick concludes, “While I am not going to recommend the flu vaccine as the be-all and end-all of influenza prevention for those that may be opposed to it, I do think it is a great tool for prevention. Here at Fort HealthCare, we strive to vaccinate all of our employees to protect our patients. So again, I implore you to get vaccinated to protect those that you care about as well.”
Fort HealthCare begins administering seasonal flu shots to their patients by appointment in early fall each year. But even if you have not had a flu shot yet, the vaccine is still available, and experts encourage individuals to get their flu shot to help avoid potentially dangerous outcomes.
Fort HealthCare patients may request a flu shot by calling their primary care clinic for an appointment, or requesting one through secure messaging using the appointment request feature of the MyCompass patient portal and online medical record. For more information, visit FortHealthCare.com/MyCompass.
When you or your child is not feeling well, the impulse to get a prescription for an antibiotic – quickly! – seems like the best course of action, offering the most immediate relief for illnesses. Many of us have grown up believing antibiotics are a “cure-all,” having experienced success when using them in the past. But, depending upon what ails you, an antibiotic may not be the proper course of treatment. Or it may even do more harm than good. The CDC provides these guidelines through their “Get Smart” campaign. To learn more, visit: CDC.gov/getsmart.
Fort HealthCare is committed to improving the health and well-being of our communities, with a vision to be the healthiest community in Wisconsin. As the leading healthcare provider in the region, it is our goal to reach as many members of the community as possible with health and wellness messages, providing tools and resources to help individuals improve their health and quality of life, while collaborating with several partners to positively improve the population’s health overall on a long term basis. For more information, visit FortHealthCare.com.