Area doctors say flu season has started early
JANESVILLE The flu—and other viruses people think are the flu—have arrived early.
Doctors in area emergency rooms and clinics already have seen cases of the seasonal influenza, but there's still time to get a flu shot.
The flu vaccine targets the circulating flu strain and appears to be a good match, said Janet Zoellner of the Rock County Health Department. Her office has seen a recent increase in people coming in for flu shots.
Dr. Christopher Wistrom has seen about a half dozen cases of the flu during his work in the emergency rooms at St. Mary's Janesville Hospital and Beloit Memorial Hospital. Of the cases he's seen, none of the people had gotten a flu shot, he said.
Wistrom saw his first case three weeks ago, well earlier than the usual January or February start, he said. Clinic managers at Dean Clinic-Janesville East also are starting to see the flu, according to a spokeswoman.
Health officials across the nation say the flu season is off to an early start, so widespread in some states that it's forced schools to close. Doctors recommend everyone from 6 months old and older to get a flu shot, particularly pregnant women, the young and the old.
One of the biggest misconceptions is thinking that vomiting and diarrhea equals the flu, Wistrom said. Those are symptoms of gastroenteritis, which lasts 24 to 48 hours, he said. Wistrom has seen about 50 cases of gastroenteritis in the last couple weeks.
Symptoms of the flu include a fever, cough, running nose, muscle aches and pains and a general miserable feeling. It almost never includes vomiting or diarrhea, Wistrom said. It lasts seven to 10 days.
If an unvaccinated family member comes down with the flu, Wistrom advised treatment of the fever right away at home with over-the-counter medicine. Parents tell him every day they didn't want to give their children medication because they wanted to prove to the doctor they have fevers. Just treat it, he said.
If people with the flu can get to their primary care provider within 24 to 48 hours, the medication Tamiflu can shorten and lessen the symptoms, he said.
The best defense, aside from the vaccine, is what you've heard over and over: "Wash your hands," he said.