Tomah Memorial Hospital has recorded its first case of influenza, which marks the start of the flu season.

Hospital infection preventionist Jan Path, RN, BSN, said a 19-month-old child was treated for influenza A in the hospital’s emergency department Dec. 29.

“Our first case is about right on track for a normal flu season,” said Path.

According to Path, last year was one of the most serious influenza seasons on record in Wisconsin with more than 7,000 residents hospitalized and 379 deaths.

“When you look at those numbers, you have to stop and realize that influenza can be a very serious illness, and I think often that people don’t think of it as such,” Path said.

She added that there is still time for people to prepare for the flu season, including a yearly flu shot.

“Even if you get the flu, if you’ve had the vaccine, you are going to be less ill, and the duration of the illness will be shortened and you won’t miss as much work or school so the flu shot can help,” said Path.

She also stressed the importance of stopping the spread of germs.

“It’s really not that hard,” Path said. “When you are out in public, don’t touch your face, wash your hands before you eat, and cough into your sleeve so you’re not spreading germs.”

She said preparations should also include getting plenty of rest, exercising regularly and eating a healthy diet.

“Believe it or not, those are things that can truly help you stay healthy in flu season,” Path said.

Path also urged people with chronic illnesses, senior citizens and the very young, especially children under the age of three, to seek medical attention if they suffer flu-like symptoms.

While most cases of flu occur in December through February, Path said the season can extend into March and April.

“We had hospitalizations in April last year, which was kind of unusual, so last year was a long flu season,” she said.

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Tomah Journal editor

Steve Rundio is editor of the Tomah Journal. Contact him at 608-374-7785.

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