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Elmbrook flu cases steady as the virus sweeps the nation

Jan. 15, 2013

Influenza continues to keep emergency rooms full and people away from work and school in Brookfield and Elm Grove.

Dr. Matthew Deluhery, an emergency room doctor at Elmbrook Memorial, 19333 West North Ave., says the facility has been steady with infected patients.

"We have seen more traffic this year than in recent years because of the flu," Deluhery said. "Things have picked up since Christmas."

Although cases have been steady, Deluhery said the emergency room isn't overwhelmed.

"On Monday, I saw maybe five or six flu patients," he said. "It hasn't gotten better, it hasn't gotten worse, but we continue to be able to handle the amount of traffic that we are seeing."

Early start to season

The influenza virus is responsible for nearly 200 hospitalizations in Waukesha County this flu season, triple the total number of hospitalizations due to the virus reported during the 2011 season.

Rosie Kapp, public health supervisor for the county's Public Health Center, said although this season's higher numbers may be alarming, people should be aware that the past few seasons were also out of the ordinary.

"I think the thing that's startling this year is that we've had a number of mild flu seasons in a row," Kapp said. "Last season was one of the mildest flu seasons on record."

There were 51 reported hospitalizations in Waukesha County due to the flu last season, which starts in October and can continue into May, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention.

"The flu season did start early this season," Kapp said. "So far this season, we've received 183 reported hospitalizations due to the flu."

Vaccine's effectiveness

Some reports have indicated that the strain causing most of the sickness was not included in this year's vaccine, though the value of getting vaccinated isn't in question.

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention said on its website that most of the influenza viruses that have been analyzed are like the viruses included in this year's vaccine; however, some influenza B viruses that have been analyzed do not match the influenza B virus included in the 2012-2013 vaccine.

Both Deluhery and Kopp said people should still get vaccinated, even with the high number of cases circulating.

"The vaccine can prevent serious illness that causes hospitalization and death," Kapp said. "Even though you may get the flu, you will not be as sick and it reduces the risk of being hospitalized or dying from the flu."

"It's not too late for the flu shot," Deluhery concurred.

Symptoms to watch for

Fever, chills, nausea, cough and runny nose are all typical symptoms of the flu, but Kapp said there are symptoms that may warrant medical attention.

"People who are starting to improve and then suddenly get worse, where the fever returns and the cough gets worse may need to go to the emergency room," Kapp said. "This is true for any age group."

Symptoms to watch for in children include labored breathing, bluish skin color, an absence of tears when crying, not urinating as often as normal, and inconsolable crying.

"Those are all symptoms that there may be serious problems," Kapp said.

In adults, Kapp said difficulty breathing, pain or pressure in the chest, confusion, dizziness, and severe or persistent vomiting may require emergency care.

Kapp also said that calling a primary care doctor instead of cramming into emergency rooms can prove more helpful in cases where the aforementioned symptoms are not present.

"People with the flu who are otherwise healthy should stay home and take care of themselves," Kapp said. "Drink lots of fluids and be sure to monitor the symptoms."

Although the virus has proven to be more potent than previous flu seasons, Deluhery said it will take patience to get through the remainder of this season.

"It takes time, sometimes up to two weeks to get better," he said. "The vast majority of people do not need to come to the emergency room."

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