Flu outbreak hits Hudson, tooHudson Physicians Clinic and the emergency room at Hudson Hospital & Clinics report an influx of patients with flu symptoms. The demand for influenza vaccines also is great, with a steady stream of people coming to the clinic to get theirs.
By: Randy Hanson, Hudson Star-Observer
Hudson hasn’t escaped the flu outbreak that has settled in across the country.
Hudson Physicians Clinic and the emergency room at Hudson Hospital & Clinics report an influx of patients with flu symptoms. The demand for influenza vaccines also is great, with a steady stream of people coming to the clinic to get theirs.
As of last Friday, 12 people with flu symptoms had been hospitalized in St. Croix County, according to the county Health and Human Services Department. Six of those people were cared for at Hudson Hospital.
Sharon Reyzer, the county’s health officer, said 1,360 people have been hospitalized statewide since the flu season started last October.
The state doesn’t report influenza-associated deaths, except for children under age 18. One Wisconsin child has died because of the flu, Reyzer said.
Minnesota has had 27 flu-related deaths and more than 1,100 hospitalizations because of the illness.
“Yes. We are seeing positive influenza tests in our clinic,” Lori Grambow, clinical services manager at Hudson Physicians Clinic, said in a phone call last Friday. “They are coming in. We are testing them. And we are getting positives.”
Grambow said the clinic lab is finding both A and B strains of influenza.
The clinic waiting rooms were busy last Thursday afternoon with people waiting to get a flu shot or see a doctor. Some wore masks over their mouths and noses to prevent spreading or getting the flu virus.
Stacy Lenzen, a public relations worker at the hospital, reported that the ER has been seeing an average of about four patients a day suffering from flu. She said 17 hospital staff members had missed worked because of the flu.
According to the county’s Public Health office, the outbreak could be with us for a while.
“The flu season has not peaked yet. The average peak is in late January to early February,” the office said in a news release.
The current flu season is the second-most severe in the past five years, surpassed only by the H1N1 pandemic in 2009, according to public health officials.
“The most effective way to prevent influenza is by getting vaccinated, and it’s not too late for individuals to get the flu shot,” the Public Health office said. “It is important to get the shot not only to protect yourself, but to also protect your friends and family, and especially those who are most susceptible to complications from the flu.”
Tuesday morning, Grambow said Hudson Physicians Clinic had just received 700 flu vaccine doses. She was happy for the shipment.
“We are just getting an influx of people coming in for flu shots,” she said.
People wanting to be vaccinated are asked to call the clinic for an appointment. They don’t need to see a doctor. The shots are given by a nurse in the allergy room.
Hudson Physicians, a division of Western Wisconsin Medical Associates, is a doctor-owned and operated clinic. While located within Hudson Hospital & Clinics, it is a separate business from the hospital.
Many insurance companies now cover the cost of the vaccinations.
The pharmacies in two Hudson stores -- Walgreens and Target -- also reported having doses of the flu vaccine on hand.
“They just need to come into the store and we can do it right then. No appointment is necessary,” said Travis Yates, manager of the Walgreens store.
The intramuscular injections cost $31.99 for those without health insurance.
Yates said the store is able to submit claims for the customers who have insurance that covers the shots.
“We bill them right here online and we get our return back in a couple of seconds,” he said. “Most of them are covering it at no charge.”
The shots are priced at $28 at the Target pharmacy, which also files insurance claims for customers.
Susan Frazier, a pharmacist at Family Fresh Market, said her pharmacy carries Tamiflu, a medication that can lessen the severity and duration of flu symptoms. A doctor’s prescription is required to purchase it.
In some cases, a doctor will prescribe smaller doses of Tamiflu for people living with the sick individual to prevent them from getting ill, Frazier said.
Dr. Kevin Helmen, medical director for Hudson Physicians and Western Wisconsin Medical Associates, said people with flu symptoms should drink a lot of fluid and get a lot of rest. He also recommended treating the symptoms with cough medicines and analgesics.
The symptoms can last from seven to 10 days, and up to a couple of weeks, Helmen reported. They can be treated with antiviral medication if caught early enough.
A sign at the clinic entrance lists fever, tiredness, a sore throat, body aches, headaches, a dry cough and nasal congestion as symptoms of the flu.
Regular hand-washing is one of the best ways to avoid contacting the flu virus, which can live on surfaces for two to eight hours, Grambow said.
She said people with flu symptoms should stay at home and avoid the elderly, cancer patients, infants and others with weak immune systems.
Cory McIntyre, student services director for the Hudson School District, said absences -- at about 5 percent of enrollment -- aren’t much higher than during a normal winter so far.
“We haven’t seen the big spikes, but it still could happen,” McIntyre said. “The way it’s trending, you wonder.”
He said the district has provided information to parents on preventing and dealing with the flu, and that may be contributing to the district’s relatively low absentee rate.
“We here in Hudson, fortunately, have not seen some of the big spikes others are seeing,” he said. “…Maybe we got lucky. Maybe it’s by design that we are doing a good job of getting people information.”
McIntyre said students and staff members who have flu symptoms are encouraged to stay home until they are better so they don’t spread the illness to others.
The school district has information on preventing and dealing with flu on the front page of its website, www.hudson.k12.wi.us.