Flu season starts earlier than usual in Wisconsin

  • Associated Press
  • November 21, 2013 - 11:15 AM

MILWAUKEE — State and local health officials say the flu season is starting earlier than usual in Wisconsin.

Fifteen people have been hospitalized so far across the state, about half in Milwaukee County. Twenty-five flu cases have been confirmed statewide.

"This mimics last year," said Tom Haupt, the epidemiologist at the Wisconsin Division of Public Health in charge of influenza surveillance. "People need to realize the season has started and it's not too late to get the vaccine."

Haupt tells the Journal Sentinel ( ) plenty of flu vaccine was available.

Anyone over age 6 months should get vaccinated, health officials said, as the hospitalizations involve all age groups. Those ages 6 months to 8 years old need two doses of the vaccine.

"It's a little disconcerting to see hospitalizations across age groups," said Paul Biedrzycki, director of disease control and environmental health for the Milwaukee Health Department. "Usually it's the very young and the very old."

Respiratory illnesses in general are on the rise, with cold viruses added to the influenza mix, Biedrzycki said.

Last year's flu season peaked in late December and was the earliest in nearly a decade. Usually, the flu season doesn't peak until late January or early February.

No flu-related hospitalizations were reported in Wisconsin before January during the 2010 and 2011 seasons.

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