POMEROY — Local officials and those across the state are urging flu vaccines as a fourth possible pediatric flu-related death in the state over the past few weeks.
Leanne Cunningham, Director of Nursing at the Meigs County Health Department, said that approximately 500 doses of the flu vaccine have been given at the health department this flu season.
There have been three reported hospitalized influenza cases in Meigs County, all adults.
Only hospitalized cases of flu, pediatric flu death or Novel Influenza A cases are reportable to the local health department. Thus, the typical flu swab collected in any medical clinic setting is not reported to the local health department unless the person becomes hospitalized with the flu, stated Cunningham.
Statewide, the Ohio Department of Health is reporting a fourth possible pediatric flu-related death which occurred over the weekend, the second in Columbiana County. Others have been reported in Fulton and Cuyahoga counties.
“This is a reminder of the danger flu poses to children. During last year’s flu season, there was one flu-associated pediatric death, and six two years ago,” stated a news release from ODH.
The Ohio Department of Health says more than 2,000 people have been hospitalized with flu-related illnesses this flu season, which usually last from October to May. The agency is urging Ohioans who haven’t received the flu vaccine to do so.
“Influenza vaccination is the safest and most effective way to prevent the flu, except for infants younger than 6-month old who aren’t eligible to receive it,” said Sietske de Fijter, chief of the Bureau of Infectious Diseases and state epidemiologist for the Ohio Department of Health (ODH). “There are no flu vaccine shortages across Ohio and it is available at most healthcare providers’ offices, local health departments and retail pharmacies.”
Flu season in Ohio generally lasts from October to May, and peaks around this time of year. The 2015-16 flu season a year ago did not peak until early March.
With flu season in full swing in Meigs County and around the region and state, the flu shot remains the primary route of prevention.
Shot clinic is held every Tuesday from 9-11 a.m. and 1-3 p.m.; others are given by appointment. Residents may call the health department to screen for coverage with their medical coverage.
“Hand washing is of utmost importance. Use hand sanitizer if hand washing is not available at any given time. Other preventive measures include keeping your hands away from your face, sneezing/coughing into your elbow and staying home when you do not feel well, especially if you have a fever,” stated Cunningham.
“It is important to be diagnosed within the first 3 days of illness so that Tamiflu may be given,” stated Cunningham.