GREENVILLE - The current flu outbreak occurred unexpectedly and excelled quickly, stated Dennis Wein, infectious disease nurse for the Darke County Health Department.
According to the Ohio Department of Health (flu.Ohio.gov), Ohio’s number of flu-related hospitalizations this season almost tripled in early December. At least half of the regions in Ohio have seen an outbreak of flu activity this flu season, which began in October, putting Ohio at a “widespread” flu level, said the Ohio Dept. of Health. There have been 1,922 reported cases of the flu this season in Ohio as of Jan. 5, but only eight of those occurred in Darke County, said Wein.
Cases reported to the health department are only those who have been hospitalized, said Wein, so the number of cases who are visiting the doctor, or simply staying home and fighting it off themselves, are much higher than those reported. The eight hospitalizations in Darke County this season were all elderly, said Wein, though there have been other cases around Ohio of younger people, including one this past Friday of a child expiring from flu-related complications.
The Darke County Health Department is currently out of flu vaccines, said Wein, but are expecting another shipment this week. Those wishing to receive the flu vaccine should call the health department at 937-548-4196 ext. 224 to find out if vaccines are available, he urged. The health department currently has vaccines for children ages six to 36 months, however, and Wein urged parents to be sure that their children have been vaccinated.
“The problem with the flu is that you can have it in your system, and be infectious, two or three days prior to coming down with it. Healthcare providers, school teachers, students, anyone, can have been exposed, not know they’re going to get sick, and expose the rest of the class or workplace,” said Wein.
The other problem, according to Wein, is that there are hundreds of strains of flu, and the vaccine is the best guess of its creators as to what the problem strains will be for that season, he said.
“There are hundreds of strains, and there’s no way to cover it in one shot like that, so it’s like a Russian roulette when it comes to that point,” said Wein.
Then the scare starts when there’s an excelling amount of cases, or a death, or both, and this year it’s been both, said Wein.
“Now we’ve been undulated with calls. People are panicking, and most health departments have run dry,” stated Wein. “All we have left here is for [someone] up to 36 months old. We have more tentatively coming next week; we’ll have some adult and some pediatric doses. People need to call before they come, though…We’re tentatively getting a couple hundred doses, and we’ll give it until it’s gone. For the last couple of years we’ve sent back hundreds of doses and gotten stuck with the bill because people just didn’t come in.”
Wein suggests doing the right things to stay healthy, which includes hand-washing, eating healthy, getting plenty of fluids, and getting enough rest, he said.
“If you get up and you feel like you’re going to be sick and can avoid work or school, it’s best not to drag it out there, because you’re just going to expose it to everyone else around you,” Wein stated.