It’s flu season
It’s not too late to get protection, professionals say
The flu is now widespread throughout Ohio but there have only been fewer serious cases in southeast Ohio, including Washington County.
According to the Ohio Department of Health, the number of flu-associated hospitalizations is rising and in the first week of January, there were 287 new confirmed flu-associated hospitalizations in Ohio compared to 157 the week before.
Although there have been 654 total flu-associated hospitalizations, Washington County hasn’t seen a peak in the illness so far.
“The southeast region, which includes Washington County, has only had 19 hospitalizations so far,” said Sietske de Fijter, chief of the Bureau of Infectious Diseases and state epidemiologist for the Ohio Department of Health.
The Southeast region consists of Athens, Belmont, Coshocton, Gallia, Guernsey, Harrison, Hocking, Jackson, Jefferson, Lawrence, Meigs, Monroe, Morgan, Muskingum, Noble, Perry, Pike, Ross, Scioto, Vinton and Washington counties.
“In the Akron area, or the east central region, we have seen a spike with 124 known hospitalizations,” said Fijter.
This region consists of Ashland, Carroll, Columbiana, Holmes, Mahoning, Medina, Portage, Richland, Stark, Summit, Trumbull, Tuscarawas and Wayne counties.
According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), flu activity is on the rise across the country and this trend is expected to continue for at least several more weeks.
“Next week, I think we will see an increase which is what normally happens,” said Fijter. “The flu is unpredictable and we never know how severe the season will be.”
According to the Ohio Department of health, there were 3,691 total flu-associated hospitalizations during last year’s flu season in Ohio. Fijter said the flu vaccination has been updated this year to better match the flu virus.
“The components of the flu vaccination match the flu virus very well according to the CDC,” she said. “All indications so far show it is a much better match and we want to stress that it isn’t too late to get your flu shot.”
The vaccination is eligible for any individuals ages six months and older. The Washington County Health Department, located at 342 Muskingum Drive in Marietta, still has the flu vaccination available for residents and the clinic is open on Wednesdays from 1 to 6 p.m. and Fridays from 9 a.m. until 4 p.m.
Vaccinations are given from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Mondays at the Marietta Health Department and from 8 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. the first Monday of each month.
“The number of people we have had coming in to get the vaccination has decreased by five or six people per week but we are still administrating them,” said Val Betkoski, registered nurse and director of nursing for the Washington County Health Department. “The focus area is in people 65 and older or anyone with chronic medical conditions of any age. Also with anyone who is out in the community.”
While the vaccination provides the greatest protection against the flu, there are other ways to avoid getting or spreading it. Washing hands frequently or using alcohol-based hand sanitizer, covering coughs and sneezes with tissues, coughing or sneezing into elbows, avoiding touching eyes, nose and mouth and staying home when sick help keep people healthier and less likely to contract the virus.
“It is important to get the vaccine because not only does it protect you but also those around you,” said Fijter.
At a glance
Ohio weekly influenza-associated hospitalizations based on regions
— Central: 44
— East Central: 124
— Northeast: 42
— Northwest: 41
— Southeast: 19
— Southwest: 21
— West Central: 26
— Total: 317
Source: Ohio Department of Health
–Runny or stuffy nose
–Muscle or body aches
–Vomiting and diarrhea