Flu activity is low but trending upward in Ohio

Latest data shows 72% increase in hospitalizations, 18% increase in outpatient visits.

Influenza-related hospitalizations this flu season remain low but are still increasing, data released Friday from the Ohio Department of Health says.

Ohio has had a total of 193 flu-related hospitalizations this flu season, including 23 in west central Ohio and 27 in southwest Ohio, according to the Ohio Department of Health.

Anecdotal reports show an increase since October, said Dr. Anessa Alappatt, a family medicine doctor at Fairborn Medical Center within the Premier Physician Network. Previous flu activity reports from the Ohio Department of Health also show a steady increase, though it is not as dramatic as last year or the five-year average.

“If you look at the data over the last three weeks, it’s increased in terms of the flu,” Alappatt said.

Locally, Montgomery County has the most in the Dayton-area region with 16 flu-related hospitalizations with Butler County following up with 12. Clark, Greene, and Preble counties have one each, while Miami and Shelby counties have two each. Warren County has three flu-related hospitalizations.

Latest number of flu-related hospitalizations
Miami 2
All Ohio193

At this time last year, the region was seeing a “very high intensity” of flu-like illnesses as Montgomery County had 295 flu hospitalizations by the end of November 2022.

“Ohio is still not seeing a large amount of flu compared to the southern states,” Alappatt said about this year’s flu season. “They have a really high incidence (rate).”

Nationally, seasonal influenza activity continues to increase in most parts of the country, most notably in the South Central, Southeast, Mountain, and West Coast regions, according to the Centers for Disease Control.

Flu-related illnesses tend to start to increase in October until about the second week of January, where the incidence of those illnesses can drop, Alappatt said.

“It peaks again at the end of March,” Alappatt said.

It’s still too early to see the impact from large gatherings over Thanksgiving, but doctors expect to see increases in illnesses after that holiday, as well as others to come.

“There’s more germs and more people exposed to those germs,” Alappatt said. “There’s going to be more risk.”

People may be hesitant to miss a Christmas gathering with family, but health experts say people should still stay home when they’re not feeling well.

“If you think about your family and the people that you could be causing to be ill, then maybe you should think twice,” Alappatt said.

It’s not too late to get the flu shot either, she said, especially at least two weeks before Christmas and/or New Year’s celebrations as that will allow time for the vaccine to reach peak effectiveness.

“Anytime people gather together, particularly during the holidays, there is a chance for sickness to spread,” said Dan Suffoletto, public information manager of Public Health - Dayton and Montgomery County. “The number one thing you can do to help stop that is to stay home when you’re sick and don’t host parties or gatherings if you’re sick.”

Other respiratory illnesses like COVID are still on people’s minds as the U.S. Department of Education will be providing schools, both public and charter, free COVID tests.

The Ohio Department of Health is not involved in those efforts from the federal government, but the department has made free COVID-19 tests available to schools statewide since March 2021, a spokesperson said on Friday. To date, the Ohio Department of Health has sent nearly 1.5 million tests to schools. That program continues, with tests available to any school upon request.

Testing remains a valuable tool in the effort to prevent spreading the virus to others, the department said, and the Ohio Department of Health is encouraging anyone who has symptoms or who has been exposed to someone with COVID to take a test and seek medical care as needed.

Dayton Children’s Hospital is starting to see an increase in RSV cases, but they are better off than last year when RSV cases hit early and hard. By the end of October 2022, Dayton Children’s had filled all their beds and approximately 30% of those cases were related to RSV.

This year, Dayton Children’s most recent data showed positivity rates of 31% for RSV, as well as 1.5% for the flu, 4.9% for pertussis or whooping cough, and 7.1% for severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS). Earlier this week, the hospital was at 82% bed utilization for its 181 beds.

Warren County is experiencing an outbreak of pediatric pneumonia cases, the health district said this week. As of Thursday, have 145 reported cases of pneumonia in children between the ages of three and 14 years. There have been no reported deaths due to this outbreak.

While the number of cases is higher this year, the severity is similar to previous years, the health district said. Most cases recover at home and are treated with antibiotics.

There has been no evidence of this outbreak being connected to other outbreaks, either statewide, nationally or internationally, the Warren County Health District said.

Flu symptoms

Symptoms of influenza can include:

  • fever or feeling feverish/chills
  • cough
  • sore throat
  • runny or stuffy nose
  • muscle or body aches
  • headaches
  • fatigue (tiredness)
  • some people may have vomiting and diarrhea, though this is more common in children than adults

Not everyone who gets the flu will experience a fever, either.

Most people who get flu will recover in a few days to less than two weeks, but some people will develop complications, such as pneumonia, as a result of flu, some of which can be life-threatening and result in death, according to the Centers for Disease Control.

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