Flu widespread in Ohio, ‘just typical’ in Trumbull

With more than 400 confirmed influenza-associated hospitalizations in Ohio, the flu is considered widespread in the state. But local health departments say they have not seen unusual activity with the seasonal virus.

“This year the flu strain hasn’t been worse, but the weather this year has made the epidemic a little more severe,” said Dr. Crispin Barlatt of Church Hill Family Health Center in Liberty.

In all but 10 states, the flu is considered widespread, meaning there are increasing reports of influenza-like illnesses in more than half the state’s regions. Ohio joined the ranks by the second week in January, according to the Ohio Department of Health.

“It seems to be leveling off recently,” said Kathy Salapata, Girard Health Department director of nursing.

Salapata said they have depleted their stock of adult vaccinations and have limited dosages of children’s vaccines. Other health departments in Girard and Warren still have some adult vaccines and good supply of of children’s vaccines.

Salapata said they ran out of the adult vaccine during the second week in January, when she said they saw an increase in influenza-like illnesses – having a temperature of 100 degrees or greater along with a cough or sore throat.

According to the CDC, over the last two weeks, the percent of visits attributed to the influenza-like illness have dropped from 4.6 to 3.6 percent nationally, which is nearly twice the baseline percent of 2.

Still, this is far less than the 2009-10 flu season when the national percent of visits neared 8 percent; last year’s peak was about 6 percent.

“We’re seeing a lot of influenza-like illnesses, but still people aren’t coming in for the flu vaccine,” said Cheryl Strother, Warren Health Department director of nursing.

Other states in the Southwest and West are facing the worst of the season while Ohio’s level remains minimal. The illnesses reported by the CDC began their yearly round in Louisiana and Mississippi toward the end of October and continued to increase until the week ending with Dec. 28.

About 3,700 laboratory-confirmed influenza-associated hospitalizations have been reported since the start of October. This equates to about 14 hospitalizations per 100,000 people in the nation.

Area epidemiologist and public health nurse with the Warren Health Department Randee Shoenberger said there have been some hospitalizations reported locally, but the numbers are still inconclusive and are not laboratory-confirmed. She keeps a loose surveillance over the area by checking with schools, nursing homes and hospitals that report flu-like symptoms.

Though she said this year has been “just typical,”January and February are the peak months for the flu, so she said it is still important to be vaccinated.

Being educated on the virus and getting vaccinated she said may be what is making this year less intense than those in the past.

“I think the people are more in tune to it, but the message is still the same,” she said.

The message – get vaccinated, cover when you cough and wash your hands.