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Flu season loosens grip on the country

Jared Christman, News Editor
February 6, 2013
Filed under News, Top Stories

While this year’s flu season appears to be cooling down, health officials are still reminding everyone to take extra care of themselves and their loved ones.

According to the Center for Disease Control, the flu season started earlier than normal and was more severe than the last few years.

Forty-two states reported widespread influenza activity last month while seven more states reported regional activity.

Among those at the highest risk of contracting the flu this year are the elderly and the young populations.

Wisconsin was no exception to this overwhelming epidemic. According to news station TMJ4, more than 1,200 people in Wisconsin were hospitalized for the flu as of Jan. 9.

Here in Northeast Wisconsin, health officials say the flu season has been a tough one.

Artie Herschberger, a licensed practical nurse at ThedaCare in Appleton, offered one reason why this year’s outbreak is worse than others.

“This is a really bad [flu] season because the strain going around is a strain that wasn’t covered in this year’s flu vaccine,” Herschberger said. “The flu shot is normally a cocktail of the top four or five strains of the flu doctors think are going to hit the population the hardest. We didn’t anticipate this strain becoming a problem.”

Herschberger added the severity of this year’s outbreak has staff members within area health care facilities taking precautions too.

“A lot of staff members in area health care facilities are wearing masks,” Herschberger said. “These are people who have symptoms of the flu or people who did not get the shot and are more likely to carry the virus. This is not something normally done, so the virus definitely has us taking extra precautions.”

At UW-Green Bay, Amy Henniges, director of Counseling and Health Services, said the school has not seen a severe outbreak yet.

“We’ve been lucky at UWGB that so far it is not severe, however, students have only recently returned to campus,” Henniges said. “In Wisconsin, the outbreak has been higher, but we didn’t have students on campus for a month.”

However, as the semester gets into full swing, Henniges said people on campus should take extra precautions to prepare themselves against the flu.

“UWGB is a closed community,” Henniges said. “People are in close proximity of each other. You have a lot of opportunity to be exposed to the virus just from people coughing or touching door handles. It’s easily spread when people are living and working in close proximity.”

According to the CDC, one of the best ways to fight the flu is by getting a flu vaccination.

While Counseling and Health Services already distributed all the vaccines it ordered for the 2013 season, Henniges said it is readily available in the community.

Herschberger said that while a flu vaccination is not 100 percent effective, it will reduce a person’s chances of getting the virus.

For more information on the flu season and ways to avoid the virus, visit CDC.gov/flu or flu.gov.

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