WARREN - It's not too late to get your flu shot.
Local healthcare providers are encouraging Mahoning Valley residents to protect themselves as this year has seen an increase in hospitalizations as well as respiratory difficulties due to the influenza virus.
"If you are sick, certainly you need to stay at home and get well. If you need attention in the hospital, you need to come down," said Humility of Mary Health Partners spokeswoman Tina Creighton. "We don't want anyone else getting sick."
Tribune Chronicle / R. Michael Semple
LPN Connie Brandt, with Warren West Community Health Center, gives a flu shot Monday to Mark Haddle of Warren.
According to last week's FluView report prepared by the Influenza Division of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 29 states, including Ohio, are experiencing high levels of influenza-like illness. Nationally, the proportion of people seeing their healthcare providers for such illness has doubled over the past four weeks from 2.8 to 5.6 percent.
HMHP, which has facilities in Warren, Youngstown and Boardman, initiated guidelines to protect patients, residents, families and caregivers from contracting the virus.
No visitors younger than 14 are permitted in the hospitals, and anyone feeling under the weather is asked to stay home and send a card in lieu of a visit. Normally, one family member is permitted to stay in a patient's room overnight, but that practice has been suspended except for special cases. Waiting rooms also can no longer be used for overnight accommodations.
Flu outbreak prevention
ValleyCare recommends taking the following precautions to safeguard against spreading the influenza virus:
anyone experiencing fever, chills, fatigue, cough, body aches, sore throat, headaches or runny nose should stay home or wear a mask in public
wash hands frequently with soap and water, or use an alcohol-based rub
cover mouth with sleeve when coughing or sneezing
avoid close contact with others who are ill
ValleyCare Health System of Ohio, which includes hospitals in Warren and Youngstown, also have reported a spike in flu cases. Visitors are not restricted at this time, but signs have been posted at entrances encouraging those experiencing flu-like symptoms to either stay home or wear a mask, said spokeswoman Trish Hrina.
Local healthcare centers have suggested residents take steps to protect themselves and others from spreading the virus. Precautions include everything from washing your hands well and often and refraining from touching your face to simply staying home if you are experiencing symptoms.
"It's something you can do for your co-workers and your friends," Creighton said.
The flu season begins as early as October and can last as long as May.
The CDC recommends everyone who is 6 months or older get vaccinated against the influenza virus, especially those considered at high risk of developing serious complications, such as pneumonia, including people who have medical conditions like asthma, diabetes and chronic lung disease; pregnant women; people 65 or older; and anyone who lives with or cares for those considered high-risk, such as caregivers of people with asthma, diabetes and chronic lung disease.
There are three types of flu shots: regular, high-dose and intradermal. Anyone ages 6 months or older can receive a regular dose, and anyone ages 18 to 64 can receive the intradermal shot. The high-dose shot is not approved for anyone older than 65.
Flu shots are offered by most health care providers and pharmacies as well as the Trumbull County Department of Health.
For more information about seasonal influenza, visit www.cdc.gov/flu.