Tuesday, January 8, 2013--5:40p.m.
MADISON--"It still seems to be increasing in terms of patients being hospitalized," said St. Mary's Nurse Epidemiologist Mel Reppen. She said their first patient admitted for the flu was back in September.
She said around mid-November they started seeing a trickle of patients; that increased throughout December. "The week before Christmas, boom," she said. "And I mean literally boom, it exploded."
The number of people hospitalized in Dane County this month with the flu has already surpassed the total for all of last year. "So far in January we've had 67 people hospitalized with influenza," said Amanda Kita-Yarbro, a communicable disease epidemiologist for Public Health Madison and Dane County. "That's a lot in eight days."
This season about 85 people in the county have been hospitalized for the flu so far; that compares to last year's total of 46.
We're told the virus likes cold, dry conditions--and last year was a more mild winter. "There does seem to be colder temperatures this year, it got colder, faster," said Reppen. "It has stayed cold and this virus tends to favor cold dry environments, so that's why we see influenza in the winter months. That's the preference of the bug, if you will, so much different than last warm winter."
If you haven't yet gotten the flu vaccine, Reppen said it's not too late. "As long as there's circulating virus in the community and as long as flu vaccine is available, people should get their vaccine," she said.
Reppen said even if you're young and healthy, you should still think about getting the flu vaccine. She said chances are you know someone who does have health risk factors--and getting the vaccine also helps protect the people around you.