- By Parker Perry Staff Writer
Champaign County is investigating a possible flu-related death this month and three flu-related deaths have been confirmed in Clark County.
The number of flu-related hospitalizations in Clark County appears to be down, Clark County Combined Health Commissioner Charles Patterson said.
“But the number of (emergency department or urgent care) visits continues to climb, which is indicative of continued higher levels of flu in the community,” he said.
Clark County has reported 204 hospitalizations due to the flu since Oct. 1, Patterson said, and 842 visits to an emergency department or urgent care.
A spike in hospitalizations took place in December and January, according to the data, but has since fallen.
“One of the main points that the public needs to understand is that when they are ill, they need to stay home and they need to stay home and not return to work or school for at least 24 hours after their fever breaks and in many cases, an extra day or two is not a bad idea … It is important not only for their own good but that they don’t pass this on to others,” Patterson said.
Champaign County is investigating a possible flu-related death right now, Champaign County Health Commissioner Gabe Jones said.
Marcella Portis, 59, of Urbana, died Feb. 1 and, according to her obituary, the flu might have been the cause.
The Champaign County coroner is investigating her death, Jones said. Portis’ death certificate currently lists her cause of death as pending, Jones said.
Portis was a nurse at Vancrest of Urbana, her obituary says, where she cared for residents for over 10 years. The Springfield News-Sun has reached out to the family for comment.
More than 8,600 flu-related hospitalizations have been reported statewide this flu season through Jan. 27, according to the Ohio Department of Health. Three flu-related deaths of children also have been reported in Ohio.
The flu is having a big impact on Champaign County, Jones said. According to health distinct statistics, more than 220 flu cases have been reported since October.
In the same span last year, he said Champaign County reported 166 cases.
“It spiked early this year and it’s worse than expected,” Jones said. “If you are sick, take all precautions. Stay away from others and don’t go to work.”
Champaign County has recorded 39 hospitalizations due to the flu since October, Jones said. At the same time last year, he said, there were 11.
Taking precautions to prevent the flu is important, Jones said. Washing hands regularly and getting a flu shot is recommended, he said. And if a person gets sick and needs to see a doctor, that should happen quickly.
“Don’t hesitate and seek medical treatment,” Jones said.
Local pharmacists are working to keep up with the high demand for medication such as Tamiflu, said Ashley Sullivan, a pharmacist at Harding Road Pharmacy in Springfield.
“Last year we probably only filled a handful and now it’s a handful a day,” Sullivan said.
One of its suppliers had a backlog for Tamiflu, she said. But the pharmacy was able to get the prescription drug from a different supplier.
One of the reasons for the high demand is families getting Tamiflu prescriptions for the entire family when one member becomes sick, Sullivan said.
“They will treat the whole family with different doses,” Sullivan said.
The family member who’s sick will get a higher dose than a family member who hopes to prevent catching the virus, she said.
This flu season has been one of the worst in 10 years, said Joti Carson, owner of Carson Pharmacy in Northridge.
“It’s probably one of the biggest seasons I’ve seen since I’ve become a pharmacist,” she said.
Her store also has seen a high demand for Tamiflu.
“It’s very expensive and now that there is a shortage, the cost is going up,” Carson said.
A person without insurance could pay close to $200 for the prescription, she said. The drug is most effective when taken early, she said, so it’s important for someone sick to get it quickly.
“Preventing it is obviously better,” Carson said. “Lots of hand-washing and try to keep children away from busy and crowded places.”
Getting a flu shot is still a good idea, she said, and those who got vaccinated aren’t getting as sick.