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Flu fatalities reported in Wisconsin

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MADISON (WSAU)  Four Wisconsinites have died from the flu, in what’s become the nation’s deadliest start to the flu season in about 35 years. State health officials now say they’ve seen 113 confirmed cases of influenza this fall – compared to just seven at this time a year ago.

26 Wisconsin residents were recently hospitalized with the flu.

State epidemiologist Tom Haupt said there had been no flu-related hospitalizations before January in the last 2-to-3 years. This year, at least four flu patients were pregnant women who did not get flu shots. State officials have been encouraging everyone to get vaccinated, and they say it’s not too late – even though it takes a couple weeks after a shot to start getting the full protection.

Officials are not sure why there’s been an increase in hospitalizations. Paul Biedrzycki of the Milwaukee Health Department says the dominant strain so far was a good match for the vaccine that people have been getting. But he says a mutation in the flu virus can happen at any time. According to Biedrzycki, scientists are studying a possible mutation of the genes in the seasonal A-H-3-N-2 flu – thus creating a disease that can spread easier, and is not covered as much by vaccines that were developed 6-to-8 months ago.

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