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Flu season hasn't peaked yet

Pierce County Public Health Director Sue Galoff made the announcement Friday: "(The county) is experiencing a flu outbreak just like the rest of the country."

Nine Pierce County flu cases requiring hospitalization were confirmed -- last year at this time there was only one.

In St. Croix County, Public Heath Supervisor Sharon Reyzer said the most recent data shows 12 hospitalized flu cases in that county. In Wisconsin, that number is nearing 3,000.

Reyzer said that compared to past years, the current flu season is a month ahead of schedule.

Reyzer said this year's flu season also seems to be the most severe in five years -- and flu doesn't typically peak until late January and early February.

The view from medical officials in River Falls gave a less-severe spin on the flu picture.

"This is a fairly normal flu season. Since 2012 was so mild, we didn't see the quantities we are seeing this year, but this year is not an unusual year," Dr. Greg Goblirsch of the River Falls Medical Clinic said. "We still have another 4-6 weeks of the flu season, so prevention is the best medicine.

"We recommend the flu shot, particularly for the elderly, children under the age of two, or those with chronic disease and compromised immune systems. We have flu vaccine available for all age groups."

Added River Falls Clinic Support Staff Manager Mary Boles: "We are seeing positive flu results, mainly Type A, in all age groups from infant to elderly. We are also seeing a lot of just plain sick people that have the typical symptoms.

"But we are not necessarily testing everyone. We are asking patients with respiratory symptoms, such as cough, fever and aches, to wear a mask to prevent the spread of illness."

Local and national health officials all emphasize that the best prevention remains getting vaccinated.

"You are not only protecting yourself, but also your family and friends," Galoff said. "A person with the flu may have some or all of these symptoms: Fever, cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, headache, muscle aches and, often, extreme fatigue."

Those more vulnerable to getting very sick from flu-like symptoms that require hospitalization are kids, those 65 and older, and people with underlying conditions, such as pregnancies.

Health officials say basic measures to prevent the spread of flu include: Covering mouth and nose with tissue or cloth when coughing or sneezing; washing hands often and keeping them away from eyes, nose and mouth; and staying home when sick.

Galoff said that the national Centers for Disease Control "warns that even healthy people can get very sick from the flu and spread it to others.

"It's not too late to get a flu shot to protect against this serious disease," Galoff said. "People become protected about two weeks after receiving the vaccine."