It claimed a 3-year-old Highland County child earlier this month and while the local area is behind schedule for the season, Health Commissioner Jarred Warner said the worst is likely to come.
“Normally, we see our biggest peak of flu in January, usually right after the first of the year,” Warner said. “This year we had a bit of a spike in January, but now we’ve climbed up to a new high right now and indications are it’s going to climb higher.”
Warner told The Times-Gazette that there are currently more flu hospitalizations at this point than have been documented for entire flu seasons, which is different than in previous years.
He said that there is usually a large initial peak followed by smaller crests as the winter progresses and the flu season runs its course, but this year the peak may appear more than a month later than the five-year average.
According to data supplied by the Highland County Health Department, influenza hospitalizations have nearly doubled in southwest Ohio in the last two weeks from 43 to 83, with Highland County health officials documenting nine individuals going to area hospitals in the last week alone.
Six months before the start of the flu season, he said, scientists checked their data and made an educated guess as to what strains of flu would be prevalent, and some years there is a good match and some years they miss the mark.
The information he has read from physicians and pharmaceutical companies indicates in this current flu season, both the trivalent and quadrivalent flu vaccines were a good match.
“Last year we didn’t have a really good match, and that may be one of the reasons why we’ve got a bit of a delay in that this year the vaccines are more effective,” Warner said.
The health department tracks many diseases that impact the community, including influenza, arner said, and one tool used is called “Epicenter,” which works with local health care providers to track the main symptoms of people visiting local emergency departments.
Warner said it is known within hours if there is a larger than usual spike in fever, respiratory problems or other symptoms, and through partnerships with major pharmacy chains, sales can be tracked regarding over-the-counter medications or even sales of thermometers.
“If we see an increase in the number of thermometers being sold in stores, it tells us that something is impacting the community’s health,” he said. “And Epicenter showed us that thermometer sales increased about 20 percent in the last two weeks here in Ohio.”
According to the Centers for Disease Control, the flu shouldn’t be taken lightly. It pointed to the recent centennial of the 1918 flu pandemic, which killed 50 million people worldwide and 675,000 in the U.S. alone.
“One question that we often hear is, ‘when should I see a doctor?’” Warner said. “While this is a personal decision that every family needs to make, here is what the Ohio Department of Health lists as reasons to seek immediate medical attention for both children and adults:”
● Fast breathing or trouble breathing
● Bluish or gray skin color
● Not drinking enough fluids
● Severe or persistent vomiting
● In children, not waking up or not interacting
● A child that is so irritable that it does not want to be held
● Flu-like symptoms that improve but then return with fever and worse cough
● Pain or pressure in the chest or abdomen
● Sudden dizziness
Warner said it’s not too late to get the influenza vaccine, and that it’s still available from private health care providers, local pharmacies and the Highland County Health Department.
Reach Tim Colliver at 937-402-2571.