Flu hospitalizations slow

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The rate of flu hospitalizations in Union County has slowed down during this flu season, but reported flu cases have gone up.
The Union County Health Department (UCHD) announced the rate of flu hospitalizations in the county has seen its first decrease since the beginning of January. UCHD public information officer Jennifer Thrush said this could mean the rate of flu hospitalizations in the county has seen its peak in the beginning of January, and could be on the decline for the season.
“When we look at that and it could indicate there could be a decline, we won’t know for sure just yet because you could still, in the next few weeks, see an increase,” Thrush said. “That’s a good sign when we finally saw a week where we finally found a decrease.”
The number of flu hospitalizations in the county, according to the UCHD, was three on Dec. 21, 20 on Jan. 9 and 31 as of Jan. 31.
This means there was a 566 percent increase in flu hospitalizations from Dec. 21 to Jan. 9. However, this also meant, from Jan. 9 to Jan. 31, there was a 55 percent increase, showing signs of the rate of flu hospitalizations slowing down.
Thrush said in a typical flu season, Ohio sees its flu hospitalization rates peak in February. She said the flu hospitalization rates could start decreasing from now on, or it’ll hit its peak in February in a typical fashion.
However, she said the flu virus is “very unpredictable,” as this decrease could be ushering in a second wave of flu hospitalizations.
According to information from Memorial Hospital, 13 people were hospitalized for the flu from Jan. 1 to Jan. 9, and four people were hospitalized from Jan. 10 to Jan. 31.
Though flu hospitalization rates are down at Memorial, the number of positive testings for the flu have seen a significant rise. Through January, there were 136 people who tested positive for the flu, while there were 49 people who tested positive in December.
Jane Johnson, infection control coordinator at Memorial, said the county has experienced an “unusual year” for flu cases.
She said the hospital is still seeing eight times the number of positive flu cases compared to last year’s flu season, but less hospitalizations.
“I’m not sure why at the beginning of January, we had so many people sick enough to be hospitalized, but now we’re not seeing that,” Johnson said. “It depends on the individual patient.”
She said this flu season’s unusual January could have been caused by the flu virus mutating this year, making available vaccines not as effective. Still, she recommended getting a vaccine.
Johnson said Memorial is tracking the flu cases in the county by what the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) report.
“We’re still watching it and we’re still talking about it,” she said. “Although the numbers have been high, they haven’t gotten worse.”
Johnson said the hospital still dispenses complimentary masks and alcohol-based sanitizer at various kiosks in the hospital. She said the hospital is encouraging people who are experiencing flu-like symptoms to not visit patients.
Thrush said the best way to prevent getting the flu is to practice frequent handwashing, disinfect one’s home and objects in case someone else has the virus and to stay home if one has the flu.
“To protect our community as a whole, if you are sick and if you do start to develop flu-like symptoms, stay home from work, school, church and other social gathering situations… until your symptoms have gone away for 24 hours,” she said.
The UCHD is now pushing out material to warn about the symptoms of the flu, following the fact there have be three pediatric flu deaths in Ohio since Jan. 31.
According to the CDC, there were 907 flu hospitalizations in Central Ohio and 6,496 in Ohio from Dec. 31 to Jan. 27.



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