According to the Ohio Department of Health (ODH), there is an increase in flu activity across Ohio, including four confirmed pediatric influenza associated deaths. A 6 year old boy and 7 year old girl from Columbiana County, a 6 year old girl from Cuyahoga County and a 7 year old girl from Fulton County are among the twenty confirmed pediatric cases nationwide. During the 2015-2016 flu season, there was one pediatric death due to influenza. Most people who get the flu usually recover in one to two weeks, but the flu can be deadly. An estimated 200,000 people are hospitalized with the flu each year in the U.S. On average, it is estimated that there are more than 20,000 flu related deaths. Not all of these deaths are directly related to the flu but many are – and possibly could be prevented with a flu vaccine.
Chris Smith, Health Commissioner for the Portsmouth City Health Department says, “There is a lot of misconception about the flu vaccine. The vaccine is not a live virus and will not cause you to get the flu. Getting vaccinated can decrease the risk of complications and even death associated with the flu.” Children and adolescents are at increased risk for becoming ill with the flu. They do not have the immune system to fight off the virus as easily as middle aged adults. Children are in close proximity with each other in schools, daycares, churches etc., where this virus can be spread easily. We must be vigilante in protecting their health. Vaccinating these children against the flu is the most important decision a parent can make.
Seasonal influenza, also known as the flu, is an illness that causes fever, headache, tiredness, cough, sore throat, nasal congestion and body aches. It is usually spread from person to person by coughing and sneezing. Flu season in Ohio can begin as early as October and run as late as March. However, it is not uncommon for sporadic cases to appear all year long.
The easiest way to protect yourself from the flu is to get a seasonal flu vaccine every year. The flu virus is spread mainly by droplets when people with flu cough, sneeze or talk. These droplets can land in the mouths or noses of people who are nearby or possibly be inhaled into the lungs.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend everyone 6 months of age and older receive an annual flu vaccine. There are groups that are at increased risk and include the following:
1. Pregnant women
2. Children under the age of 5 and especially those under the age of 2
3. Individuals age 65 and older
4. Individuals with chronic medical conditions
5. Individuals living in nursing homes and other long term care facilities
6. Individuals living with or caring for others at high risk for complications from the flu
Dr. Michael Martin, Health Commissioner for the Scioto County Health Department states, “Influenza has been and continues to be a deadly disease. The best way to prevent this disease is through vaccination. Getting vaccinated today will greatly lower your risk of death and serious illness from influenza.” He continues in saying, “Luckily it is not too late to get your flu shot. Please do yourself and loved ones a favor and get vaccinated!”
Vaccines for all ages continue to be available at both Health Departments. For additional information, call the Scioto County Health Department Nursing Division at 740-355-8358 or the Portsmouth City Health Department Nursing Division at 740-353-8863. More information about the flu and vaccinations can also be found at the Centers for Disease Control at www.cdc.gov or the Ohio Department of Health at www.odh.ohio.gov.