Ohio influenza hospitalizations this season reached their highest point so far last week.
There were 832 hospitalizations for the flu from Jan. 26 to Feb. 1, according to the Ohio Department of Health. That marks a 36% increase from the previous week.
Dr. Amy Acton, director of the state health department, called the numbers “deeply concerning.”
To date, Ohio has reported 4,465 flu-related hospitalizations for the 2019-2020 season, according to the state. That’s more than double the 2,160 flu hospitalizations in Ohio during the same period last year, state record show.
Though it’s difficult to be sure, Acton said she hopes the most recent data is a sign flu season has or is close to peaking in Ohio and numbers will soon begin to decline.
An 11-year-old girl died earlier this week from the flu in northeastern Ohio’s Lake County. It was the second pediatric death of the flu season. The flu also killed a 16-year-old girl from Cuyahoga County in early January.
“I think that’s something that people don’t realize,” Acton said. “Healthy people can die from the flu.”
Adult flu deaths are not reported to the state health department. While the flu can cause serious complications for anyone, it is considered particularly dangerous to kids and the elderly.
Despite widespread concern for the novel coronavirus, the flu has actually proven to be much deadlier so far.
There have been an estimated 19 million cases of flu, 180,000 hospitalizations and 10,000 deaths in the U.S. this flu season, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The flu is currently considered widespread throughout Ohio and most of the U.S., according to the CDC.
Dr. Ben Bring, a physician at OhioHealth’s Dublin Methodist Hospital, has seen a lot of patients with the flu this season. He’s also got a lot of questions from patients about the novel coronavirus and said he tells them all the same thing.
“Usually I say, ‘Look, you’re probably never even going to come in contact with this virus … so go get your flu shots and wash your hands,’” Bring said.
The flu is spread by coughing, sneezing or close contact with someone who is sick. After someone is exposed to the illness, it’s symptoms typically start around four days later and can include a fever, cough, sore throat, runny nose, body aches, headache and fatigue.
To prevent the flu, people should make sure they frequently wash their hands, avoid touching their eyes, nose and mouth and stay away from sick people, according to the state health department.
Though the country is 14 weeks into the 36-week flu season, a vaccine is still the best way to avoid catching the disease, Acton said. The vaccine is recommended for everyone over the age of 6 months.
“The best way to prevent getting the flu and passing it on to loved ones is to get a flu shot,” Acton said. “It’s not too late.”