The Ohio Department of Health is reporting the first pediatric flu death in the state.
Officials have confirmed a 4-year-old boy from Montgomery County has passed away due to the illness, which has sent nearly 4,000 Ohioans to the hospital this season.
The state is also reporting flu-associated hospitalizations have risen sharply in the state and across the US.
There have been 3,854 total flu-associated hospitalizations in Ohio since flu season began in October 2017.
During the first week of January 1,750 people ended up in the hospital due to the flu compared to 925 people during the same reporting period last season.
The 2017-2018 flu season in the state and nationally looks similar to what was seen during the 2015-2015 flu season, which was the most severe flu season in recent years.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) this flu season is now categorized as widespread in 46 states including Ohio.
Traditionally flu season runs from October to May, peaking between December and February.
“Flu is difficult to predict,” explained ODH Medical Director Dr. Clint Koenig. “It’s not possible to say precisely when the flu season will peak or end or how severe it will be. That’s why getting the flu vaccination is the safest and most effective way to prevent the flu for everyone 6 months and older. Flu vaccination also can reduce the severity of the illness if you do get sick.”
Additional preventative measures Ohioans can take include: washing hands frequently or using alcohol-based hand sanitizer; covering coughs and sneezes with tissues, or coughing or sneezing into elbows; avoid touching eyes, nose and mouth’ and staying home when sick.
Flu symptoms can include fever, cough, sore throat, body aches, headache, chills, and fatigue.
The CDC also recommends that healthcare providers prescribe one of two antiviral drugs as another line of defense as soon as possible patients with confirmed or suspected influenza who are hospitalized, have severe illness, or may be at a higher risk for flu complications.
“These antiviral medications can reduce the severity of the flu and prevent serious flu complications,” added Koenig. “They work best when started within two days of getting sick.”
Officials add so far, influenza A (H3N2) viruses have been the most common flu viruses circulating this season, according to CDC. H3N2-predominant flu seasons have been associated with more severe illness, especially among children and adults age 65 and older. Vaccine effectiveness against H3N2 viruses has been around 30 percent. Vaccine effectiveness against other circulating flu viruses has been about 60 percent for H1N1 viruses, and around 50 percent for influenza B viruses. A study also done on flu vaccination said that it can significantly reduce a child’s risk of dying from influenza.
Michaela Madison Reporting