As Some Hospitals Lift Flu-Related Visitor Restrictions, DHS Warns Of Second Wave Of Flu

Influenza B Outnumbering Previously Dominant Strain, Affects Younger People

flu shot
David Goldman/AP Photo

Visitor restrictions are being lifted in some hospitals as reported cases of the flu have lessened, but health officials warn flu season is not over.

Restrictions were put into place during what is being called one of the worst flu seasons for Wisconsin in decades.

Aurora Health Care’s neonatal intensive care units at Aurora Sinai Medical Center and Aurora West Allis Medical Center lifted restrictions Wednesday.

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Earlier this season, ThedaCare placed child visitor restrictions in all seven of its Wisconsin hospitals, barring children under the age of 12 from visiting. Thedacare’s restrictions will be lifted Saturday.

While peak flu season may be over, Thomas Haupt, Wisconsin influenza surveillance coordinator for the Department of Health Services, said the season is likely to extend through April or longer.

“We’re getting a second wave, so to speak, of influenza type B coming about,” Haupt said. “And that’s very typical.”

Influenza B affects a younger population as opposed to the H3N2 strain, which dominated this season and affected older populations.

The latest data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report cases of influenza B are now more common than influenza A.

According to Haupt, the flu shot is typically more effective for influenza B than it is for influenza A — H3N2 falls under influenza A.

Haupt said influenza B will affect a younger demographic than influenza A, particularly affecting those younger than 5 but up to 50 years old — although any age can get it. He says influenza A tends to affect those 50 and over.

“We are seeing some more schools call in with more illnesses wondering if they should close which we always tell them if they don’t have enough teachers, they don’t have enough staff, then consider closing,” Haupt said. “Otherwise there’s no real threshold.”

Although the intensity of the flu has subsided in Wisconsin, CDC data shows that the flu is still widespread.

The previous record for flu-related hospitalizations stood at about 4,700, Haupt said. As of Wednesday, there were more than 6,500 hospitalizations for the season.

Haupt added that there is still time to get vaccinated.