As flu viruses continue to spread across the state, health commissioners in Ohio are urging people to get vaccinated.
Two children died from flu complications last week and the Ohio Department of Health reports at least 3,854 Ohioans have been hospitalized for the flu since the beginning of the 2017-18 flu season.
The Ohio Department of Health recommends everyone older than 6 months of age should get a flu shot once a year.
U.S. Senator Sherrod Brown (D-OH) held a conference call Wednesday with Lucas County Health Commissioner Eric Zgodzinski to sound the alarm on Ohio’s flu deaths. Zgodzinski said the increasing mortality rate from flu complications has become the health agency’s main concern.
In tracking the flu, Zgodzinski said at least four deaths and 244 cases of the flu have been reported this season. In past years, there were just 38 flu cases reported in the county for 2016-17, said Zgodzinski.
Sen. Brown said the flu shot is the first preventative measure to take in order to avoid getting the flu, but acknowledged the vaccine does not offer 100 percent protection.
Zgodzinski also acknowledged the vaccine’s effectiveness is relatively low.
“The story came out that the current flu vaccine is only 10 percent effective, but we think it might be 10 to 30 percent effective this year,” said Zgodzinski.
Zgodzinski and Sen. Brown said to follow all other measures recommended by the Ohio Department of Health: wash hands often with soap, avoid contact with people who are sick, cover coughs and sneezes, and disinfect surfaces regularly.
If a person suspects they are developing symptoms of the flu, they should get to a doctor to begin treatment immediately. Early treatment is recommended especially for seniors, young children and people with compromised immune systems, who are all at an elevated risk for developing serious complications.
“If you think you are coming down with the flu, stay home and rest,” said Zgodzinski.
Brown added that while the health commissioners make the recommendation for people to stay at home who have developed flu symptoms, many people are forced to return to work because they do not have paid sick leave.
“I introduced a paid sick leave bill in Congress,” said Brown.
Brown said the bill was introduced last spring but bi-partisan effort has not been made in Congress to pass the measure.
“There are so many examples when this matters,” said Brown. “If you have a sick child, do you stay at home with your child, or do you send your child to school to get everyone else sick? If you are sick, especially if you work in food service, do you go to work? People in those situations don’t have paid sick leave. A lot of people in Ohio don’t have any type of paid sick leave. The chamber of commerce doesn’t like bills like this. We are going to keep at it. We know there is overwhelming support for this bill.”
Data from the Fayette County Health Department about recent flu activity was not available Wednesday.
Contact Ashley at (740) 313-0355 or connect on Twitter by searching Twitter.com for @ashbunton and sending a message.