DELPHOS — The Tri-county area experienced a moderate level of influenza activity during the 2012-13 season but health officials are seeing influenza activity increasing throughout all regions in Ohio.

Allen County Health Department Director of Nursing Becky Dershem said Friday the Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) Regional Surveillance Reports, which includes information from providers, schools and hospitals, are showing an increase in the number of reported upper respiratory illnesses among young and middle aged adults. She said influenza is always a respiratory illness with symptoms including fever or feeling feverish/chills, cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, muscle or body aches, headaches and fatigue.

“Indicators show that over just the past week, more people are visiting emergency rooms with flu-like symptoms,” Dershem stated.
Dershem said when school is in session, school administrators send reports of why children are not in school.

“We have a good indicator from entities and healthcare professionals as to what they are seeing or ‘feeling’ out there,” Dershem detailed.

She said prevention is paramount and people washing their hands properly and often is a huge protective measure. Dershem’s recipe for hand washing is to use soap and water, lather up the hands really well and scrub between fingers and under the fingernails while singing the song “Happy Birthday” twice.

In addition, she said people should stay home if they are sick, stay away from those who are sick and most importantly, get a flu shot as soon as possible.

“When people think about getting the flu shot, they consider how it affects them rather than how it will affect the people around them,” she rationalized. “Co-workers and family, especially those highly susceptible older folks and little people in our lives, are counting on everyone to get a vaccination.”

Allen and Putnam counties reported a decrease in the number of flu-like cases requiring hospitalizations during 2013: Allen reported 30 cases (a 60 percent decrease from 2012); Putnam chimed in with 16 recorded cases, down 4; and Van Wert tallied three cases, down one from 2012.

Dershem said in the last quarter of the 2013 flu season, two of the three confirmed hospitalization cases involved infants; one old enough to have been vaccinated (older than 6 months) and the other younger than 6 months old.

Dershem said people who received a flu shot during the 2012-13 season made a huge impact.

“It prevented 79,000 people from being hospitalized,” she painted a vivid picture. “That’s enough people to fill an average NFL football stadium.”

The flu vaccines offered by the health departments protect against the three most common influenza viruses; the A (H1N1) virus, A (H3N2) virus, and influenza B virus.

Dershem said flu shots are still available at the Allen County Health Department through weekly clinics from 8-9 a.m. and 3-4 p.m. on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. Appointments can be made by phone at 419-228-4457. All clinics are contingent upon vaccine supply availability. The cost is $30 and may be covered by insurance providers.

Putnam County Health Department’s Director of Nursing Sherri Recker said that during the 2012-13 flu season there were 16 reported hospitalized cases and 337 flu-like cases documented through the regional ILI surveillance in the county.

“In 2014, there have been 2 hospitalized cases; one young adult and one young child older than 6 months,” Recker stated.

Van Wert County Health Department’s Director of Nursing Linda Bissonette said the county has had one confirmed hospitalization within the first several days of this year.

“I strongly encourage everyone to get vaccinated since it can keep them out of the hospital,” Bissonette stated. “Walgreen’s, Rite-Aid and CVS still have vaccinations available.”

Bissonnette said there is a new strain of H1N1 that has been hitting the 20-40 years olds.

“That’s the population who usually do not get vaccinated,” Bissonette said.

The Putnam County Health Department is offering flu vaccinations from 9-11:30 a.m. and 1-4 p.m. on Tuesdays; until 6 p.m. on the second and fourth Tuesday; and from 9:30-11:45 a.m. on the fourth Wednesday. A variety of insurances are accepted for some vaccines. Cash or check payments for flu shots are $10 for children and $25 for adults. For more information or to make an appointment call 419-523-5608.

Currently there are no adult vaccines available at the Van Wert County Health Department. Vaccines are available for children ages 6-35 months. Most insurances are accepted or if paying out of pocket, the cost is $15. To schedule a vaccination at the Van Wert facility please call 419-238-0808 extension 103 or 107.