Area schools are being plagued by seasonal flu-related illnesses this year.

Nationwide, the Center for Disease Control estimates that so far this 2019-2020 flu season there have been at least 13 million flu illnesses, 120,000 hospitalizations and 6,600 deaths from flu. Rusk County Public Health Officer Dawn Brost said the CDC believes it is too early to know whether the flu season has peaked or if flu activity will increase again.

Hospitalizations are at similar rates to previous, recent flu seasons and mortality rates, while increasing, has not yet exceeded the epidemic threshold, according to Brost. Those at a higher risk of developing complications from the flu are young children, pregnant women, people 65 years or older and people with chronic health conditions.

The flu virus is spread directly by infected people or objects that are infected with flu germs. The flu virus is found in the droplets from the nose and throat of infected people and spread when infected people sneeze or cough or touch surfaces.

To stop the spread of the flu, the CDC encourages individuals to stay home, if possible, for at least 24 hours after your fever is gone, wash your hands with soap and warm water often and cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when you cough or sneeze.

Other actions to take, according to Brost, include avoiding close contact with sick people, avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth, clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces and take care of your body by getting plenty of sleep, drinking water, staying physically active, managing stress and eating foods high in nutrients.

Common signs and symptoms of the flu are fever, chills, headache, tiredness, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose and body aches. Not everyone will develop a fever with the flu.

Flu vaccines, according to the CDC, can protect against three or four flu viruses that CDC research suggests will be the most common in that particular flu season. Recent studies by CDC researchers and other researchers suggest that flu vaccination usually reduces the risk of influenza illness by 40% to 60% among the overall population when the vaccine viruses are like the ones spreading in the community.

Flu vaccine effectiveness estimates are not available yet this season; however vaccinations, according to the CDC, is the best way to prevent flu and its potentially serious complications.

A doctor can prescribe antivirals which work best if started within two days of getting sick. Antivirals, according to the CDC, can be used to make the illness milder, shorten the time you are sick and be helpful in preventing serious flu complications, such as pneumonia.

The flu has been especially tough on Bruce School students. At the start of last week 10 percent of students were absent however by the end of the week 20 percent of students were absent for illnesses, according to Director of Instruction Carrie Wessman.

Bruce School is recommending parents take their children to the doctor if the signs and symptoms have not improved after a couple of days. The school has also encouraged students, parents and staff to get the flu vaccination, avoid germ sharing, wash hands thoroughly at home and at school, getting plenty of rest and to disinfect surfaces, said Wessman.

Ladysmith elementary, middle and high schools and Flambeau Schools were contacted regarding flu-related illnesses but did not report that information to the Ladysmith News.

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