More than 10,000 Ohioans have now landed in the hospital because of the flu this season, according to new state data released Friday. And there a couple months to go before the illness typically subsides for the season.
Also, the number of people reporting flu-like-illnesses to doctors continues to rise, trending up three weeks in a row and climbing more than 18 percent during the reporting week ending Feb. 10, the Ohio Department of Health (ODH) reported.
“It can be dangerous,” said Dayton physician Dr. Gary LeRoy. “This one is one of the worst strains we are seeing in a decade or more.”
LeRoy, who practices at the East Dayton Health Center and is an associate professor at Wright State University’s Boonshoft School of Medicine, said the sickness is hitting some with such fury that they are bypassing their family physicians.
“I think they feel so poorly that they feel they need to go directly to the hospital and get checked out,” LeRoy said.
Statewide, 10,785 people have been hospitalized for the flu this season, including 715 in Montgomery County and 232 in Clark County, where flu-related deaths have been reported.
One bit of good news: the new data show hospitalizations declined for the fourth week in a row ending Feb. 10, according to ODH. In Montgomery, hospitalizations were down almost 54 percent compared to about 19 percent statewide.
“As we get later in the season, historically we do tend to see lower hospitalization numbers, and that’s something we hope will continue through the rest of the flu season,” said Dan Suffoletto, Public Health - Dayton & Montgomery County spokesman.
But nationwide, the flu had its deadliest week among the vulnerable young.
The illness took 22 children’s lives during the week, or more than a quarter of the 84 flu-related pediatric deaths this season, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
According to state health officials, three children from Ohio have died from the flu this season, including 4-year-old Jonah Rieben of Clayton, who died Jan. 6.
Among reported pediatric flu deaths this season, only 26 percent of children eligible for vaccination had been before they got sick, according to the CDC.
Every state but Hawaii and Oregon again reported widespread flu activity. Forty-three states, including Ohio, continue to report high influenza-like illnesses. The overall hospitalization rate is higher than during the same week of the 2014-2015 season, another known for its severity.
Also on Friday, the CDC released a report estimating the season’s flu vaccine at 36 percent effective against both A and B strains. The data were drawn from 4,562 children and adults with acute respiratory illness at five study sites between Nov. 2, 2017 and Feb. 3.
Three flu-related deaths have been confirmed in Clark County by the Clark County Combined Health District.
“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,” said Clark County Combined Health District Commissioner Charles Patterson. “It is important not only for their own good but that they don’t pass this on to others.”
Flu activity is likely to remain elevated for several more weeks, according to the CDC.