Weekly flu hospitalizations continue to rise


COLUMBUS – The Ohio Department of Health reported the number of new influenza-related hospitalizations rose again last week.

The 994 hospitalizations from Feb. 2 to Feb. 8 mark a new high for the 2019-20 flu season and a 19 percent increase over the previous week.

These numbers bring to 5,457 the total hospitalizations since the season began at the end of September and are more than double the hospitalizations reported during the same week of last year’s flu season. The current report can be found at http://bit.ly/2SBiFER.

“One in 12 Americans is likely to get sick from flu this season,” said Dr. Mark Hurst, the Ohio Department of Health medical director. “The next person hospitalized could be you, your child or another loved one. Protect yourself and everyone around you by getting a flu shot and following other precautions.”

Adult flu deaths are not reported to ODH; however, two Ohio children, girls ages 11 and 16, have died from the flu this season.

The virus can be especially dangerous for people who are very young or elderly, people with compromised or weakened immune systems, people with chronic health conditions and pregnant women. Hurst advised people who are in one of these categories and develop flu symptoms should seek medical care right away.

Certain antiviral medications can ease flu symptoms and are especially important for people in high risk groups.

While ODH remains on vigilant watch for COVID-2019 (coronavirus disease 2019), state infectious disease experts also are monitoring flu-related activity – from lab data to emergency department visits to thermometer sales – in an effort to keep Ohioans healthy. They will continue to do so through the end of flu season in May.

They advised the following to help prevent flu, caused by contact with respiratory droplets from the cough or sneeze of an infected person:

• Stay home when you are sick.

• Avoid close contact with people who are sick.

• Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue or sleeve when coughing or sneezing.

• Wash your hands often with soap and water.

• Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth after touching objects.

• Practice good habits, including disinfecting surfaces, getting plenty of sleep and managing stress.

Symptoms typically start one to four days following exposure and include fever, cough, sore throat, runny nose, body aches, headache and fatigue.

“Along with severe illness, flu can lead to missed work and education, limit family time and diminish quality of life,” Hurst said. “We encourage workplaces, schools, nursing homes and other facilities to protect Ohioans by ramping up cleaning and disinfecting efforts and supporting other prevention habits.”

People cannot get the flu from the flu shot, and it is recommended for everyone older than 6 months. Those who have had issues with the flu shot before should talk to a medical provider about options that might not cause problems.

Individuals can learn more about the flu and precautions to take at www.flu.ohio.gov.