This flu season is wrapping up with about 7,000 fewer hospitalizations in Ohio than last year’s particularly nasty season.
There were 9,828 flu-related hospitalization in Ohio this season as of May 11, and the last week of official flu season activity tracking will be posted by the Ohio Department of Health on Friday.
Comparatively, during the 2017 to 2018 season, there were 17,397 flu-related hospitalizations in the state.
A severe flu season can mean more people home sick, missing school or work. The flu can even lead to complications and death, particularly for vulnerable populations like young children, older adults and people with other health complications.
Four Ohio children died from flu-related causes this season and four children died last season, according to Ohio Department of Health. The department does not track adult flu-related deaths.
Scott McGohan, CEO of McGohan Brabender, an employee benefits brokerage, said last year’s severe flu season didn’t just mean employers paying out more in claims but also cost employers who lost productivity when employees were out sick.
According to the Centers for Disease Control, the flu results in over 200,000 hospitalizations and accounts for over $10 billion in health care expenses each year in the U.S. Additionally, the flu is the reason behind 75 million sick days per year, costing employers over $16 billion in lost productivity.
“There’s a lot of employees in Dayton that actually pay for employees and their spouses to get the flu shot,” McGohan said.
The data so far shows that local counties had significant drops in flu-related hospitalizations. Clark County reported 353 hospitalization last season and so far this season the state has recorded only 174.
In Butler County, there were 521 flu-related hospitalizations last season, while the state so far this season has tallied 294.
Dan Suffoletto, spokesman for Public Health - Dayton & Montgomery County, said in Montgomery County, flu activity was up last season compared to this season, with 20 weeks of at least 10 hospitalizations compared to 18 weeks this season.
There were 997 flu-related hospitalizations in the county last season, while the preliminary data shows there were 596 hospitalizations in the county this season.
“The flu is unpredictable and we encourage everyone to be vaccinated early in the season so that they have protection throughout the year,” Suffoletto said.
Over the last five years, the severity of the flu season in Ohio has ranged from 3,691 hospitalizations in the 2015-2016 season to 17,397 last season.
While the officially measured flu season is almost over, some cases do occur year round.
Vaccines are recommended for everyone six months or older. Other prevention measures include good hand washing, covering coughs and sneezes with tissues, or coughing or sneezing into your elbow, avoiding touching your eyes, nose and mouth, and staying home when sick and until fever-free for 24 hours without using fever-reducing medication.
Flu symptoms can include fever, cough, sore throat, body aches, headache, chills and fatigue. Although most people fully recover from the flu, some experience severe illness like pneumonia and respiratory failure, and the flu can sometimes be fatal.
People who think that they may have the flu and are pregnant, have an underlying medical condition, or who are extremely ill should contact their health care provider immediately.
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