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Flu bugging out from Ohio region

Tom Jackson • Feb 13, 2014 at 12:20 PM

Patients   have been hospitalized for flu throughout the Sandusky area, but new figures show the flu may be waning across the state.

For the week of Jan. 26 to Feb. 1, the latest week posted online at the health department’s flu-monitoring site, Ohio flu activity is still listed as widespread. The 191 flu-related hospitalizations that week, however, were down about 49 percent from the 375 hospitalizations listed the week before.

The department’s other indicators — outpatient flu activity, thermometer sales, emergency room visits, flu searches on Google —also fell significantly.

“It certainly looks like flu activity in the state of Ohio is slowing down,” said Tessie Pollock, a spokeswoman for the state health department.

While all the indicators suggest fewer flu incidents, it’s still too early to declare the flu season over or waning, Pollock said.

“We won’t really know until April if we can officially say it is the end of flu season” she said.

The state health department’s figures show that although none of the counties in the Sandusky area have been hit particularly hard by the flu outbreak, Huron and Sandusky counties had higher hospitalization rates than Erie and Ottawa counties.

Huron County reported 11 hospitalizations this year, while Sandusky County has had 10.

The latest state figures list six hospitalizations for Erie County, although the local health department’s epidemiologist, Kelley Bemis, reported seven when she spoke to the health board last week. Hospitalizations are up slightly from last year, but emergency room visits are a bit down, she said.

It’s been a light flu season for Ottawa County, said Nancy Osborn, the health commissioner there.

Numbers released by the state health department show three hospitalizations for flu so far this winter in Ottawa County. The health department says that is a hospitalization rate of 7.24 per 100,000 residents, well below the state average of 18.71.

Osborn mentioned the low number of hospitalizations and said the health department also gets flu reports from school nurses and local doctors.

“We are getting very low reports of incidences of influenza” she said.

High vaccination rates may have helped keep flu down in Ottawa County, she said.

With flu activity still described as widespread, it’s still a good idea for people who haven’t gotten a flu shot go to ahead and do so, Pollock said.

“It’s never too late to get a flu vaccination,” Pollock said. “Flu does happen year- round”

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