The number of Clark County influenza-related hospitalizations spiked in January and has not slowed down in February, leaving health officials wondering if the worst part of the season is still to come.
“If you extrapolate data from now to end of month, it will be pretty consistent with what we saw in January, which was the spike,” Clark and Champaign County Epidemiologist Gabe Jones said. “Hopefully it won’t go that way, and it will drop off a little bit, but we can’t say at this point.”
Data the state collects, like thermometer sales, does show the numbers should start to decline.
However, numbers from the Clark County Combined Health District show the county had 31 influenza-associated hospitalizations in January, compared to 17 the last three Januaries. There have been 12 so far in February.
The H1N1 strain, which caused the pandemic in 2009, is the prominent stain spreading across the state. It has caused one death each in Champaign and Clark County so far this year.
The H1N1 virus is more severe than other strains and tends to attack middle-aged and younger people, Jones said.
Usually, the elderly get hit the hardest by the flu, but this year the 50 to 59-year-old age group has had the most hospitalizations in Ohio, 509 through Feb. 1.
Clark County Combined Health District Commissioner Charles Patterson said a spike is January is more common for a flu season, and last season’s spike in November and December was an anomaly.
The health department still advises people to get their flu shot if they have not, but it will not protect you from all the strains.
“The H1N1 that’s in the vaccine is a variant, and so you are getting considerable protection from the vaccine, but it may not be 100 percent effective,” Patterson said.
Cold temperatures and lots of snow usually contribute to the spread of the flu, because people tend to stay inside and are closer to each other. This year the health commissioner said the sub-zero temperatures and slippery roads could have helped to contain the spike in January.
“The factors that would go into that would probably be so many days off school with the weather. The children have been off of school, but then the weather and streets have been so bad they really haven’t been able to go to the mall and movies and those sorts of things. We have seen fewer cases because of that for sure,” Patterson said.