The season of sickness has hit Wisconsin as state lab tests confirmed more than 50 cases of influenza statewide, but officials are reminding Wisconsinites vaccinations are still available.
Anne McCue with Public Health of Madison and Dane County said of the 50 confirmed cases of influenza statewide, one is in Dane County. McCue said there are often many more cases that are never reported.
Public Health recommends anyone six months and older get a flu shot, she said, and infants, people with health conditions like asthma, diabetes and heart disease, elderly and pregnant women are at higher risk.
It is very important for those who are around infants to get vaccinated due to an infant’s poor immune system, she said.
“The more people who get the vaccine, the more you protect the whole community from the disease,” McCue said. “You protect your personal health and are helping the whole community.”
Flu shots reach full immunity after two weeks, she said. The peak of the flu season is in February, so it is not too late to get vaccinated, she added.
Flu shots are widely available in clinics and pharmacies, and Public Health provides vaccinations for children and adults who are uninsured, McCue said.
McCue added people cannot get the flu from the flu shot. She stressed awareness of flu symptoms, which include fever, cough and body aches, not diarrhea or vomiting.
Next week, Public Health is launching a media campaign to spread the importance of everyone getting a flu shot to protect those who cannot get one.
A city of Madison statement reiterated common steps to minimize the risk of getting the flu and spreading it to others, such as washing hands, avoiding contact with those who are sick, knowing the symptoms and staying home when sick.
Nick Roberts at University Health Services said the fall is the start of influenza season and is when UHS focuses on promoting getting the vaccine.
Roberts reminded students flu shots are available year-round, and there is never a bad time to get one.
“Most people need it now,” he said. “Cases increase dramatically in the fall and winter.”
Roberts said cases of students with influenza have begun to be confirmed this year.
The UHS walk-in clinic ended last Friday, but students can come in any time, he said. Flu shots can be scheduled by calling UHS, and they are still free for students, he added.
Roberts said the vaccine reduces serious illness from influenza and some cases often put people out of class or work for a week or more.
A lot of cases are transmitted from surfaces and spread through the mouth and eyes, he said. To lower risks, Roberts said washing hands frequently and avoiding people who are sneezing and coughing are helpful.
“Also, I know it may be hard, but stay healthy,” he said. “Get plenty of rest, exercise and drink fluids.”
Roberts said there are many ways to reduce risks of getting the flu, and although the vaccine is not perfect, it is the mainstay of preventing the illness.