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Flu claims Champaign County man

Ohio has recorded 25 flu deaths this season.

A Champaign County man’s flu-related death has been linked to the H1N1 strain, the most common strain found in people hospitalized with the flu, local health officials said Thursday.

The man died Jan. 2 at a hospital in Columbus and had other medical problems that contributed to his death, according to Champaign County Epidemiologist Gabe Jones.

H1N1, more commonly known as the swine flu, caused a pandemic in 2009, Jones said.

H1N1 is covered in the flu vaccination this year but has been the most common strain found in people hospitalized with the flu.

Clark County’s infectious disease nurse Kitty Smith said H1N1 tends to affect younger people, ages 20 to 50, who have not received the vaccination.

Last year H3N2 was the most common, and it tends to affect those who are 65 and older.

“When we are looking at the healthy people, the ones who are not vaccinated, we have seen some ICU complications like ARDS,” Smith said.

ARDS is a life-threatening respiratory disease that prevents enough oxygen to get into the lungs and blood.

The state has seen 25-flu-related deaths so far and the average age is 62 years old.

“That’s younger than the typical age of flu-related deaths,” Jones said.

Smith said it was a late start to the flu season this year.

She said last year she saw many more cases in October, November and December, but this year the numbers are just starting to increase.

The Ohio Department of Health has issued an advisory for health officials to expect the numbers of 20- to 50-year-olds to increase, Smith said.

Health officials want people to know it is still not too late to get your flu shot. The flu season runs from October to May.

“If we are getting the word out there people need to get the flu vaccine. The people are usually following what we are saying in those messages. More people are coming into the health department and getting the vaccine,” Jones said.

Instead of having large flu-shot clinics, the Clark County Combined Health District is open to walk-ins during the week. Jones said the new approach has helped.

Jones said there was a second flu-related death in the area on Jan. 9, a Montgomery County resident.

Bill Wharton, a spokesman for Public Health — Dayton & Montgomery County, said that no flu-related deaths had been reported to his department.

Local coroners and health departments are only required to report flu-related deaths of children under age 5.

Widespread flu activity has increased across most of the United States, including Ohio, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

But so far, the 2012-13 flu season has been tame compared to last season, which started about a month early in October and had already begun to peak by this time last year when more than 1,900 flu-related hospitalizations had been reported and at least one pediatric death.

By comparison, about 800 flu-related hospitalizations have been reported to the state so far this year.

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