Four children have died in Ohio in the past two weeks from flu-like symptoms and flu-related hospitalizations continue to rise throughout the Miami Valley, according to the state health department.
A 7-year-old boy from Columbiana County near Cleveland was the latest victim, according to a spokeswoman for the Ohio Department of Health (ODH), who said the boy died over the weekend.
His death followed the death of a 6-year-old girl in Cuyahoga County, a 7-year-old girl in Fulton County and a 6-year-old boy from Columbiana County, who all died within the past several weeks, according to ODH, which said the deaths in Columbiana County were unrelated.
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There was one flu-related pediatric death during last year’s flu season, and six pediatric deaths in the previous flu season, ODH reported.
Still, the number of overall flu-related hospitalizations indicates the flu season may be leveling off, although it’s impossible to know whether the flu virus is becoming more active or losing steam, health officials said.
There were a total of 70 flu-related hospitalizations in the 10-county area tracked by the health department for the week ending Saturday, according to the most recent figures from Public Health – Dayton & Montgomery County. But that was just one more than the total number of hospitalizations for the previous week, preliminary figures from the health department show.
Montgomery County reported the highest number of flu-related hospitalizations in the Miami Valley last week with 37, but that was down from 39 in the previous week.
Meanwhile, nearby Clark County saw the number of flu-related hospitalizations cut nearly in half — from nine to five — over the same period.
Greene County saw the biggest spike in flu-related hospitalizations in the area with a more than tenfold increase last week compared to the previous week. But the total number of cases rose from just one to 11, health department figures show.
“We saw a spike early in the year, but we had people coming in for flu shots as early as September, and February has been a very slow month for flu shots and customers coming in with flu-like symptoms,” said Kindy Ghussin, the owner of Heartland Pharmacy at 3000 Far Hills Ave. in Kettering.
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Flu reports are still coming in from local hospitals, and the most recent figures from the local health department are subject to revision, said Dan Suffoletto, a spokesman for the local health department.
But the preliminary numbers show a stark contrast from the last week in January, compared to the first week in February when the number of hospitalizations in the Miami Valley spiked more than 40 percent from 48 to 69, according to the latest report.
“This is the time of year traditionally when they (flu-related hospitalizations) start to level off, but it will probably take another week or two to see where the trend is going,” Suffoletto said.
Statewide, there were 396 flu-related hospitalizations in Ohio during the week ending Feb. 4 — the most recent week for which statewide figures are available. The state number also was just one more than the number of cases reported in the previous week.