Tag Archives: influenza

Shots urged as flu cases rise in Wisconsin

Wisconsin health officials say flu cases are on the rise and they are urging people to take precautions like getting a flu shot.

The Wisconsin Department of Health Services said on Dec. 28 there had been 161 influenza cases so far this season, and 95 hospitalizations, including eight children and 78 adults age 50 and older. Of those hospitalized with influenza, 63 percent were 65 or older.

State Health officer Karen McKeown says getting a flu shot is still one of the best ways to protect yourself and your family and friends from complications of the flu.

McKeown says other steps include practicing good hand-washing hygiene, covering your cough and not sharing drinking cups and straws.


Stay up to date on canine influenza and heartworm protection

Does anyone really enjoy being administered a shot at the doctor’s office? While we might dread heading in for our yearly flu shot each year, certainly one prick must be better than catching this year’s version of the flu.

For your canine companion, that time of year is here for them. It is an interesting development for pet medicine, as dogs in the United States historically were not threatened by canine flu — not until it found its way to the Midwest in 2015.

What is Canine Influenza Virus?

According to the American Veterinary Medical Association, in the dog world, strains of canine influenza — or CIV — have been limited to international pups — dogs in Asian countries, particularly Thailand, South Korea and China. CIV is thought to have developed directly out of avian and equine influenzas, strains H3N2 and H3N8, respectively.

In 2015, we started seeing the H3N2 variety crop up in parts of the Midwest, clustered in the Chicago area. The AVMA has determined that in the case of H3N8, the entire genome of the equine influenza strain evolved specifically for canine hosts, making it a particularly interesting virus from a medical standpoint.

The first U.S. detection of CIV H3N8 came in 2004, when it was found in racing greyhounds in Florida and nearby states. It has spread to more than 40 states.

The most prevalent strain in the Midwest, seen first in the Chicago area last year, is H3N2, a mutation of avian influenza.

How can we prevent CIV?

Just as our flu is not fatal to the majority of our young and healthy population, canine influenza will likely not threaten Fluffy’s life. But it might make Fluffy very uncomfortable.

According to Dr. James Frank, DVM at Lakeside Animal Hospital, “(Canine influenza) seems to present as a severe respiratory infection with dogs — coughing, running fevers, not eating or drinking and acting lethargic.” Many veterinarians are offering vaccinations for both strains.

So what can you do to keep Fluffy healthy?

Knowing the risk factors is one of the first steps to determining if a dog might be susceptible to CIV.

“If you have a high-risk dog, if you go to dog parks, groomers or if you go to doggie day care, you have better chances of picking it up,” Frank says. “What people should be aware of and weigh ahead of time is that should they pursue the vaccine, they don’t get protection until after they’ve received the second of two shots, which are spaced about a month apart.”

Once the initial influenza vaccinations are done, the immunization becomes a once yearly shot.

So far for 2016, cases of H3N2 are down significantly in our area compared to the level of cases seen in Chicago last year. This could be for a variety of reasons, including preventative vaccination by pet owners last year.

Heartworm season

While you’re at the vet looking into the CIV vaccination, remember it’s the time of year for dog owners to be diligent about heartworm testing and prevention.

Heartworms begin in a larvae stage, when they’re initially transmitted to a dog from a mosquito bite. As the adult worms form, they find their way to and set up shop in the dog’s lung and heart blood vessels, causing permanent damage and enormous discomfort. Affected dogs will tire easily, cough and show other signs of distress.

The two pieces of good news here: it is generally agreed that the heartworm risk season does not last all year and preventing the disease is as easy as remembering to pill your pup once per month. With heartworm, it is always better to be proactive with prevention than to try to treat the disease once it has taken hold.

Heartworm season generally lasts from March/April through November, which is the active and breeding season for mosquitoes. During this time, it is important for dogs to be on a monthly heartworm preventative.

Who is at risk?

Remember, both indoor and outdoor dogs should be tested and put on preventative medication, as even a dog who only goes outdoors occasionally is still considered at risk for the disease. Since mosquitoes do not limit themselves to the outdoors — they can and will find a way into homes — heartworm prevention is an important part of every dog’s yearly health profile.

How do monthly heartworm preventatives keep my dog safe?

You might not know that heartworm prevention works differently from a vaccination. When you give Fluffy his heartworm medication, it actually works to help him clear out any parasites that may have snuck into his system during the prior month. Stopping the heartworm larvae from maturing into adult heartworms is essential to keep heartworm disease out of your pup’s system.

“While canine influenza isn’t a deadly disease, heartworm is both deadly and sneaky. Remembering to give the medication is key,” says Frank. “Everyone has their own system at home to keep themselves on track. It is a very good drug when given correctly.”

What can I do?

Staying up to date on all of Fluffy’s vaccinations and check-ups will greatly reduce your chances of contracting anything this year. Your local veterinarians can answer your questions, so don’t hesitate to ask.

Also, look for brochures and information available at clinics and online for further reading.

Severe season: Milwaukee health dept. encourages flu shots

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is reporting widespread flu activity across much of the country, including in Wisconsin. In response, the Milwaukee Health Department is reminding all residents to help prevent the spread of influenza.

“This season’s influenza appears to be more severe than seasons past,” stated Commissioner of Health Bevan K. Baker. “The single best way to protect yourself and your family is to get a flu shot. I urge all city residents to get their vaccination if you haven’t already and to take steps to protect your health and the health of your families.”

Influenza – the flu – is among the most common respiratory illnesses in the United States, affecting millions of people each year. The virus is spread through the air when someone who is sick coughs, sneezes, or speaks. Symptoms of the seasonal flu include fever, cough, sore throat, stuffy nose, muscle or body aches and fatigue. Though common, the flu can be serious, and it often leads to hospitalization and sometimes death in the most vulnerable populations including very young children, the elderly and those with chronic illnesses.

“The good news is that the available flu vaccine appears to be good match for the circulating strain,” said Paul Biedrzycki, director of disease control and environmental health. “Vaccination along with antiviral medications when prescribed by health care providers is the best way to prevent or mitigate severe illness and complications from seasonal influenza.”

The vaccine is recommended for all individuals over six months of age, especially those at greatest risk for serious complications, including adults 65 and older, children younger than five and pregnant women. While not 100 percent effective, the vaccine can also reduce the severity of symptoms.

In addition to vaccination, the health department encourages all city residents to help reduce the spread of flu by:

• Washing hands often with soap and water.

• Covering your nose and mouth with your sleeve when you cough or sneeze.

• Staying home or from school or work when experiencing symptoms.

Those experiencing flu-like symptoms should also get rest and drink plenty of fluids. Contact a health care provider if symptoms are severe and/or worsen after six to seven days.

Further more information, go to www.milwaukee.gov/health.