XENIA — At the peak of flu season, officials say flu-related hospitalizations are continuing to increase in Greene County.
According to Amy Schmitt, who works as the Greene County Public Health (GCPH) communicable disease nurse, the Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR) has shown a dramatic rise in flu hospitalizations. From Jan. 1 to Feb. 13 of this year, there have been 26 flu hospitalizations in the county, compared to four hospitalizations during the same six-week time frame of 2016, the report says.
But flu hospitalizations are not just on the rise in the county — they’re also up in the state. Comparatively, there have been 2,281 hospitalizations this year in Ohio, while there were only 280 hospitalizations during the same time frame of 2016, according to the report.
The state has also seen three flu-related pediatric deaths in the last two weeks, according to the Ohio Department of Health.
Schmitt says the flu is particularly dangerous for three groups of people: the very young, the elderly, and anyone who is immunocompromised. This includes people who have diabetes, heart disease, or are going through cancer treatment.
Seasonal flu typically occurs December through March, but has started as early as October and can last until May, GCPH said in a press release Feb. 13.
“Every year is different,” Schmitt said.
GCPH officials describe the flu as “a contagious respiratory disease caused by a virus infecting the nose, throat, and lungs, [which] can lead to serious complications such as pneumonia or bronchitis, hospitalization, or even death.”
Symptoms, which come on suddenly, may include fever, headache, tiredness, cough, sore throat, nasal congestion, and body aches. These last two to seven days, sometimes longer.
Schmitt advises flu-sufferers to stay home from work or school for two days after symptoms stop, as opposed to the usual one-day rule.
Health Commissioner Melissa Branum says Greene County citizens can protect themselves by washing hands regularly, covering coughs and sneezes, eating a balanced diet, and getting plenty of rest.
But the best form of protection, GCPH officials say, is a flu shot.
GCPH offers flu shots by appointment only. Anybody can make an appointment by calling 937-374-5600. For more information, visit www.gcph.info or www.flu.gov.
“It is not too late to get a flu vaccination,” Schmitt said.