Ohio numbers rise in flu hospitalizations, seniors most at risk - WFMJ.com News weather sports for Youngstown-Warren Ohio

Ohio numbers rise in flu hospitalizations, seniors most at risk

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In response to news that flu activity in Ohio is now widespread, the Ohio Department of Health and the Ohio Department of Aging urge older Ohioans and their families to be aware of seniors' elevated risk of complications from flu and take steps to prevent its spread.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released its latest flu statistics, which said week 52, which ended December 30, had 925 new flu-associated hospitalizations in Ohio, which increased from 554 during the week before. This is compared to 157 at this time last year.

State health officials are reporting about 2,104 flu-associated hospitalizations for the 2017-18 flu season, compared to 369 at this time last year.

In 2014, almost 3,000 people were hospitalized in the state because of the flu.

Ohio officials have not reported any flu-associated pediatric deaths so far for the 2017-18 flu season.

However, adult flu-associated deaths are not required to be reported to public health agencies, according to the CDC. 

"For many reasons, older adults are more likely than younger adults to experience the flu and its complications," said Dr. Clint Koenig, Medical Director of the Ohio Department of Health. "The flu can make existing health problems worse and can be particularly dangerous for the 80 percent of older Ohioans who have at least one chronic condition, such as diabetes or heart disease."

The flu is a highly contagious respiratory disease caused by a virus. It can cause mild to severe illness and, in some cases, can lead to death. Flu viruses are spread from person to person by coughing, sneezing or through surfaces. 

Symptoms of the flu may come on quickly and may include fever, headache, extreme tiredness, dry cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, muscle aches, nausea, vomiting and diarrhea.

Here are some tips to minimize your risk of getting and spreading the flu:

  • Get a flu shot. Even though we are already well into the flu season, there is still plenty of time to benefit from a flu shot. Ask about special high-dose vaccines specifically for older adults. There are plenty of vaccines available across the state. A study of people over 65, who are most likely to die from influenza, showed that repeated vaccination was twice as good at preventing the most severe complications of flu. (The flu vaccine is never 100 percent effective, and some people who get vaccinated may still get the flu, but their symptoms are likely to be less severe). 
  • Maintain good health habits. Get plenty of sleep, manage stress and be as physically active as is appropriate for you. Drink plenty of fluids and eat nutritional foods.
  • Wash your hands. Scrubbing with soap and warm water for at least 20 seconds can kill most of the flu viruses your hands encounter. When you can't wash your hands, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer. Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth with your hands.
  • Limit your contact. Avoid contact with people who may be ill with the flu, as well as surfaces they may have touched. Likewise, if you feel you may have the flu, limit the time you spend with others until you are fever-free for at least 24 hours without the use of medicine. Call ahead to places like doctor's offices, nursing homes and senior centers to see if they have special visitation restrictions for those who have flu-like symptoms.
  • Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when you cough or sneeze. Throw the tissue away immediately and wash your hands. If you don't have a tissue, cough or sneeze into your elbow then wash any affected skin immediately.

If you do get the flu, proper care can lessen symptoms and decrease the time you are ill and able to infect others. Stay at home and get plenty of rest. Drink plenty of liquids to replace fluids lost through fever and sweating.

Also, talk to your medical provider about medicines you can take to manage your symptoms and how they may interact with other medicines you take.

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