(CTN News) – As winter and the year-end holiday season approach, Wisconsin is experiencing a surge in cases of COVID-19 and other serious respiratory illnesses.
Although statewide case numbers are no longer reported due to most people getting tested at home and not reporting the results, other indicators help track the increase in illnesses such as influenza, pneumonia, and respiratory syncytial virus (RSV).
According to the state health department, in the last three weeks of November, deaths from these respiratory illnesses accounted for 6-8% of all deaths in Wisconsin.
The Department of Health Services (DHS) has reported that the number of Wisconsinites hospitalized with COVID-19 is about five times higher than in early August.
The majority of hospitalizations have been among individuals aged 65 or older, as stated in a recent advisory issued by the agency.
Furthermore, wastewater surveillance for COVID-19 has revealed a significant increase in the virus. The levels of viral material in wastewater are now about four times higher than those reported in mid-October, according to DHS.
Given the circumstances, the DHS advisory strongly recommends that individuals who are particularly vulnerable to COVID-19 and have been infected seek medical care promptly, including antiviral medications. It is crucial to prioritize the health and well-being of those at higher risk.
In November 2022, Wisconsin initiated a telehealth program aimed at diagnosing and recommending treatment for individuals with COVID-19. The Department of Health Services (DHS) recently announced that this program, which is free of charge, has been extended until April 2024.
According to Dr. Ryan Westergaard, the state epidemiologist and chief medical officer for the DHS Bureau of Communicable Diseases, it is crucial for individuals at high risk of severe illness from COVID-19 to seek treatment promptly.
In a DHS advisory, Dr. Westergaard emphasized that antiviral treatments for COVID-19 should be initiated within five days of symptom onset.
Telehealth services can facilitate the early administration of oral antivirals within this critical five-day window, ultimately contributing to saving lives.
The telehealth service is accessible seven days a week, from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m., as stated by the DHS. Consultations are available in 17 different languages, ensuring inclusivity and accessibility for a diverse range of patients.
Patients who meet the criteria for antiviral medication can receive a prescription for the treatment and have it filled at over 600 pharmacies across Wisconsin. Alternatively, the medication can be conveniently delivered overnight to the patient’s home.