As temperatures plunge following some unusually mild weather, Fulton County residents are reminded that the flu bug has not taken vacation this winter season.
Six cases of Influenza A were reported by local medical centers and offices for the first week of 2019 through Jan. 7, according to Pat Wiemken, environmental director of the Fulton County Health Department. No local cases this season have required hospitalization.
But Wiemken advised that the strain is highly contagious, and “we’re just starting to see cases increase.”
By the final week of 2018, the Ohio Department of Health recorded 555 hospitalized cases in Ohio. Cuyahoga County led with 105, followed by Montgomery County, with 49. There have been no child deaths by influenza recorded, and no novel strains of Influenza A reported in the state.
Wiemken said it’s too early in the season to know how heavily the flu has impacted Fulton County. She said, currently, northeastern communities are being hit hardest in Ohio.
But it’s important to remain on guard, she said. Influenza can prove dangerous to some people, and fatal in some cases. The young, the elderly, pregnant women, and people with chronic medical conditions fall into particularly vulnerable categories.
Warnings that children with influenza need urgent care include fast breathing or trouble breathing, severe and/or persistent vomiting, extreme irritability, and not waking or interacting. Adults flu victims may need urgent care if they experience difficulty breathing, pain in their abdomen or chest, grayish or bluish skin tone, dizziness or confusion.
Influenza doesn’t usually wane until April, although cases have occurred into May. Wiemken said the length of the season can vary each year, so it’s necessary to remain vigilant.
The ODH lists influenza symptoms as fever, cough, sore throat, body aches, headaches, chills, and fatigue.
Preventative measures include plenty of hand-washing, a precaution people may not realize can be pivotal to avoiding illness. Wiemken said hands should be cleaned before, during, and after food preparation, after coughing or sneezing, and after touching animals.
“When in doubt, wash your hands,” she said.
If the flu bug hits, drink clear liquids, rest often, and stay away from others. The ODH recommends remaining at home throughout, and even 24 hours after a fever breaks without the help of medication. Children and teenagers with flu should never be given aspirin; it can cause Reye Syndrome, a serious illness.
“It’s very important for people to get their flu shots,” Wiemken said. The county health department, at 606 S. Shoop Ave. in Wauseon, offers a walk-in flu shot clinic each Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, from 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m; children are by appointment.
A quadrivalent flu shot, for those age six months through 64 years old, is $45; a high-dose flu shot for ages 65 and older is $70. Flu shots are covered by most health insurance plans. People without health insurance may qualify for payment on a sliding fee scale.
Reach David J. Coehrs at 419-335-2010.