Health Officials Say Flu Is Now Widespread In Ohio


Look out for the flu.

The Columbus Health Department says the number of people with influenza has increased each of the last three weeks.  The Ohio Department of Health says it's now widespread across the state.

In Toledo, at least five people have died from it.  But, there are ways to protect yourself.

Since it's not too late for a flu shot, Todd Born showed up at Lifecare Alliance and rolled up his sleeve for the nurse.

"You've had a flu shot before?" she asked.

"Yes, ma'am," he replied.

Born knows just how tough influenza can be.

"My father is in the hospital.  His flu turned into pneumonia, which is not a good thing," he said.

Born added that his dad is recovering and  should be released tomorrow or Saturday.  

Born's father is lucky.  Each year, about 36,000 Americans die from influenza.  The viruses merge and mutate, so the vaccine must be changed each year to battle the vicious bugs.  The  version this year includes H-1-N-1...also called the swine flu.  Unlike most variants that attack the old and the young, this strain targets healthy adults.

At the OSU, the emergency department staff has been treating patients who've come in with the flu. The Ohio Department of Health said emergency departments like this hospitalized more than 300 patients for the illness during the first week of January. Those numbers are running about 30 per week here, according to the Columbus Health Department.

Dr. Eric Adkins, director of emergency medical services for the OSU Wexner Medical Center, said some of the patients are very sick.

"I know that we've had some of the patients that have been transferred in that have had a much higher acuity, or sickness from the flu that may require some type of ventilator support because they have such severe illness from the flu," he said.

He said that flu shots are best, but noted that they don't guarantee complete protection. He said some adults who get influenza despite the shot, may only be ill for four days, not fourteen.  

"It can lessen the symptoms of it and lessen the duration of it," he explained.

Dr. Adkins also suggested that if people aren't feeling well and must leave the house, they should wear masks to avoid infecting others.  The hospital offers masks for staff, as well as visitors with colds. It also provides dispensers of hand sanitizer. The doctor urged people to wash hands often, and to consider carrying a small bottle of hand sanitizer in a pocket or purse. And he demonstrated the importance of covering a cough.

"It's easy to cough in an elbow, so you don't expose others around you," he said.

As for Born, his goal was simple.

"To prevent myself from getting the flu."