As a flu outbreak grows, the Winnebago County Health Department pleads the community to clean, cover, contain and get vaccinated. In the span of three weeks, the reported flu cases almost quadrupled in the Stateline area. Winnebago County Health Department Health Protection Director Todd Kisner says this season started earlier than in the past.
“Flu season for our community usually occurs January, February, the first part of March,” said Kisner. “What we saw this year is that it started early in December.”
From December 10-16, 69 flu cases were reported. From December 17-23, there were 178 flu cases. In the last week of 2017, a whopping 254 cases of influenza were reported. Mercyhealth’s Chairman of the Department of Emergency Medicine Dr. Jason Bredenkamp says people staying in close quarters to stay warm during recent freezing temperatures might have something to do with it.
“It’s an easily transmittable virus,” said Bredenkamp. “It’s spread by respiratory droplets. So, coughing, sneezing without washing your hands.”
Dr. Bredenkamp says he was vaccinated and still got sick. “I worked a couple weeks ago and over a couple of shifts I saw probably a dozen or more cases. Then, unfortunately, was a victim of influenza myself last week.”
But even though some reported cases are vaccinated patients, getting the shot can still decrease the severity of the flu.
“They’ve been out for a week with the flu and they got the flu shot,” said Kisner. “Where as people without the flu shot have been out two weeks or more with it.”
Of the 254 cases reported last week, 118 of them were in the 18-64 age group.
“That group that is the younger generation that thinks ‘Oh I’m healthy, I don’t need a flu shot’,” adds Kisner. “[They] are the ones that tend to get the flu shot more often than the young and seniors in our community.”
Flu shots are available at your primary physician’s office as well as a walk-in clinic at Walgreen’s or CVS.