Several confirmed flu cases in School District of Onalaska

A local school district has several confirmed cases of influenza. While the cases affect one Onalaska elementary school, officials are concerned it could spread.

The cases in the School District of Onalaska come as local hospital systems are also reporting an uptick in confirmed flu cases. But there are ways people can limit their exposure or have less severe symptoms if they get the flu.

The director of nursing services for the School District of Onalaska, Katie Drury, said the cases have been confined to Irving Pertzsch Elementary School.

“We do know that some of these illnesses have been confirmed cases of influenza,” said Drury, a registered nurse.

There may be other cases at schools throughout the district that have not yet been confirmed.

“We have seen a rise in just kiddos having the symptoms that are consistent with influenza,” Drury said.

Officials are urging people to stay home if they think they could have the flu.

“The CDC has an excellent website that you can go and check on resources for what are symptoms of the flu and how to prevent the spread of the flu,” Drury said.

One of the biggest ways to lower your risk of getting the disease is getting a flu shot.

“It’s not too late. You can still go to your provider [and] ask for that influenza vaccination,” Drury said.

Preliminary estimates from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show this year’s shot is about 50 percent effective against the most common flu strain.

“So this puts it in about the average range to maybe slightly below average, but it’s more effective than the early reports from last season,” said Dr. Raj Naik, a pediatrician with Gundersen Health System.

That means it’s about 50 percent effective in completely preventing the disease. It also helps weaken some of the symptoms associated with the flu.

“A lot of people that get the flu vaccine that end up with flu, they have milder symptoms than they would otherwise,” Naik said.

He recommends everyone gets vaccinated, especially because some people, like infants or the elderly, can’t.

“It’s really important that we do it not only for ourselves but to help protect those around us that may not have the same benefits,” Naik said.

Gundersen Health System reports there have been 175 cases of influenza since October. Mayo Clinic Health System did not have the exact numbers but said it is also seeing more cases of Influenza A, which is the more common strain. While officials are seeing more influenza cases this month compared to January, it is still a very mild year compared to others.

Get your weather forecast from people that actually live in your community. We update with short, easy-to-use video forecasts you can watch on your phone every day. Download the iOS or Android app here.