June 28, 2016

Intermittent clouds

Flu season hitting early, hard in Medina County

The state has seen an earlier and worse flu season than usual, and Medina County is no exception to this trend.

Ohio has seen more than 10 times as many people hospitalized because of the flu so far this season compared with last year, according to numbers from the Ohio Department of Health.

As of Dec. 22, 863 influenza-related hospitalizations have been reported statewide to the state Health Department. At that same time in 2011, 65 such hospitalizations had been reported.

Locally, 15 confirmed flu hospitalization cases have been reported to the Medina County Health Department since October. Last year at this time, no flu cases had been reported.

Marsha Kornowski, a registered nurse who works for the Medina County Health Department, said this flu season’s numbers are preliminary and may increase as cases are confirmed.

At Medina Hospital, there have been 15 people admitted to the hospital because of flu-like symptoms so far this season, and last year, there were six for the entire flu season, spokeswoman Angie Smith said.

Lodi Community Hospital has had two flu cases, and last year, it had none, said Amy Kilgore, a hospital spokeswoman.

Diane Salisbury, director of infection control and prevention at Akron General Medical Center, described last year’s flu season as “late and mild.”

In Ohio, flu season typically begins in January, but this year, it’s started in early December. Flu season in Ohio can begin as early as October and run as late as March.

“It hasn’t been this early until about 10 years ago,” Salisbury said. “In Ohio, we tend to see it after the first of the year.”

Salisbury said the No. 1 thing people can do to avoid the flu is to get vaccinated. Despite the number of cases, Salisbury said the vaccine is a good match for the viruses circulating this year.

“It’s still not too late to get vaccinated,” she said.

Seasonal influenza, also known as the flu, is an illness that causes fever, headache, tiredness, cough, sore throat, nasal congestion and body aches. It usually is spread from person to person by coughing and sneezing, according to the state Health Department.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that everyone 6 months and older should get a flu vaccine each year.

The Akron Regional Hospital Association, whose members include Lodi Community Hospital, Medina Hospital and Summa Wadsworth-Rittman Hospital, released a statement saying its hospitals are restricting visitation because of flu season.

Visitation is limited to healthy visitors and children are discouraged from visiting. The association emphasized that visitors stay home if they are experiencing any flu-like symptoms: fever, cough, chills, sore throat, headache, muscle aches, vomiting or diarrhea.

The county Health Department administered about 1,300 adult influenza vaccinations, and ran out in early December. However, doctor’s offices, pharmacies and clinics offer them.

Vaccines for children between 6 months and younger than age 18 still are available by calling the Health Department toll-free at (888) 723-9688, and pressing 1 to speak to the nursing division. The cost is $12 for county residents.

Contact reporter Kiera Manion-Fischer at (330) 721-4049 or kfischer@medina-gazette.com.