LIMA — Flu-related hospitalizations were up in 2012, and there’s no sign of the numbers slowing down into 2013.
Hospitalizations for influenza were up statewide as well as locally for 2012.
In Allen County, there were 89 hospitalizations throughout the year. It’s a major spike in recent years. The Allen County Health Department reported 45 hospitalizations in 2009, 15 in 2010 and 66 in 2011. There were 20 hospitalizations in Putnam County and 20 in Auglaize County in 2012. Peak flu season typically occurs in January and February.
“One of the things we worry about is the kids going back to school after the holidays,” said Deb Roberts, assistant director of nursing at Allen County Health Department. “In Michigan, they’ve also had two pediatric deaths due to influenza. That’s close. That’s scary.”
Luckily, there weren’t any flu-related deaths in Allen, Auglaize and Putnam counties. Roberts said people were hospitalized with the flu in every month but September in 2012, which is an unusual trend. Normally, there aren’t any or very few flu-related hospital stays through the summer months.
“It’s almost like it didn’t go away,” Roberts said. “I wouldn’t be surprised if our numbers increased once everybody gets back from the holidays and schools are back.”
The Centers for Disease Control reported that flu season had its earliest start in the United States in nearly a decade. Because the majority of flu cases go unreported, hospitalization records of serious flu cases are an indicator of how much the illness has spread. According to the Ohio Department of Health, there have been more than 800 hospitalizations so far this season, statewide. At this time last year, there were 65 flu-related hospitalizations.
Over in Auglaize and Mercer counties, Jane Mescher has compiled statistics for those who’ve visited Grand Lake Health System doctors offices and urgent care centers and had positive flu tests. Mescher is an infection preventionist at Joint Township District Memorial Hospital in St. Marys. She has been compiling results over the past 10 flu seasons, and she said this has been one of the worst she’s tabulated. During this flu season, there have been 92 doctors visits so far, many of them children. At this time last year, she said there were two people who tested positive for the flu.
“We are having a lot of positive flu tests,” Mescher said. “This year, this is happening much earlier than what it has been in the last several years. The last several years of flu really haven’t been prevalent to February, and it’s hitting big time now.
“You don’t know if it’s going to slow down because we were receiving a lot of illnesses with kids, with school being closed, or if the Christmas holidays, getting together with families would help to potentiate,” she said.
Roberts and Mescher both urged that it’s not too late to get a flu vaccination — they agreed it’s the best way to prevent the flu.
Anyone older than six months is recommended to have the vaccination. People at particularly high risk include those who have chronic underlying medical conditions, the elderly, the very young and pregnant women.
ILLUSTRATION: Flu feel bad