(WJW) – If you have not felt it yourself, you probably know someone who has — sneezing, coughing and feeling downright awful.
Flu season is here and Ohio is among the states with the highest number of influenza cases in the nation.
Flu-related illness, emergency room visits and hospitalizations have all been increasing across Ohio, especially in the southwest part of the state.
Rising cases here in Northeast Ohio have doctors concerned. They’re asking people to take precautions to prevent catching the flu.
“We’ve had about 150 flu admissions over this past week at our Northeast Ohio hospitals. That’s about 56% more than the previous week, so it is going up,” said Dr. Neha Vyas, a family medicine physician at the Cleveland Clinic.
She says more people are coming for treatment or being admitted into hospitals for the flu, especially elderly patients and very young ones.
According to the Ohio Department of Health, across the state, flu-like illnesses are up 53% and emergency room visits are up 29% due to influenza.
“We are seeing an increase of about 35% of influenza cases from last year. We are seeing a rise in influenza right now. Last year, we did see this kind of sharp increase, but then the Omicron variant of COVID seemed to take over at around this time,” said Dr. Vyas.
A map from the CDC shows Ohio in the purple range, the highest level on the map. It indicates very high level of influenza, along with several other states.
So far this season, the state health department shows Northeast Ohio with 108 influenza-associated hospitalizations.
Currently, the Dayton and Cincinnati areas are being hit the hardest, with hundreds of people in the hospital in the southwest part of the state.
Compared to last year, Northeast Ohio saw almost 350 flu-related hospitalizations for the entire season.
The 2020 to 2021 season only saw seven, mainly because people were wearing masks and taking other precautions due to COVID.
But the year before COVID, more than 2,700 Northeast Ohioans were treated for flu in a hospital.
“Flu generally presents with a fever, chills, body aches, headache and congestion,” said Dr. Vyas.
Dr. Vyas says as of Monday, the positivity rate at Cleveland Clinic hospitals in our area was 30%, and 43% among children.
“This increase is similar to the pattern Australia actually had for their flu season. There was a sharp increase and then it was followed by a steep decrease, so we’ll see if this holds true for our trajectory as well,” Dr. Vyas said.
Dr. Vyas says it is really important to get a flu shot, and there is still time to get one before going to holiday gatherings. The vaccine takes about two weeks to take effect.
Health experts say only about 26% of adults and 40% of children in the United States have received their flu shots.