MADISON -- Department of Health and Family Services Secretary Helene Nelson today announced that Wisconsin has identified its first laboratory confirmed case of influenza this season.
Public health officials in the department said the case, confirmed by the Wisconsin State Laboratory of Hygiene to be influenza type A (H3 subtype), involves an adult female from Waupaca County. She had no history of travel outside the state during the week prior to illness. The patient was not hospitalized and has made a complete recovery. Further tests to determine if the influenza virus identified is similar to the strain contained in this years vaccine are pending at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in Atlanta.
"This culture-confirmed case of influenza reinforces the need to work cooperatively this season to protect persons at greatest risk of complications from influenza," said Jeffrey P. Davis, MD, chief medical officer and state epidemiologist for communicable diseases.
"While it is too soon to tell if this case marks the start of more widespread transmission throughout Wisconsin, we strongly recommend that those groups at highest risk for influenza complications be vaccinated as soon as possible," Nelson said.
It takes two to three weeks after vaccination for a person to develop sufficient antibodies to provide effective protection from influenza.
To increase the likelihood that vaccine will be given to those who need it most, Nelson said her department has developed and distributed a checklist for vaccination clinics throughout the state. "This checklist will be used as a screening tool to identify individuals in high-risk categories," Nelson said. "Those who are not high risk will be asked to forego vaccination."
Nelson said she and her staff are working with key partners throughout the state to develop an equitable distribution strategy to deliver vaccine to those at highest risk. She said she is consulting with a broad spectrum of medical professionals to address the influenza vaccine shortage, determine its implications for Wisconsin, and refine Wisconsins plan of action.
"In addition, the department has distributed Wisconsins updated prioritization plan to all state medical providers, and we encourage compliance with the guidelines," Nelson said.
"Fortunately, we do have other methods beside vaccination that we can use in our efforts to decrease the spread of influenza, and those methods will be particularly important this season," Davis said.
Davis added that the department is developing infection control guidelines for various health care settings to help prevent and control the spread of influenza in Wisconsin hospitals, long term care facilities, and clinics. "We will also be issuing guidelines for homes and community settings such as schools, daycare, and the workplace," he said.
Nelson added that her department will closely monitor the situation for any evidence of price gouging of remaining vaccine. "If any gouging is determined to have occurred, the matter will be taken up with the Department of Agriculture, Trade, and Consumer Protection and, where appropriate, the Wisconsin Department of Justice," Nelson said.
Typically, influenza is first identified in Wisconsin between early November and late December. It is impossible to predict the length or severity of the influenza season, or when influenza activity will be greatest. Historically, peak influenza activity in Wisconsin occurs in late January or early February.
Source: Wisconsin Department of Health