According to the Ohio Department of Health, the flu is considered to be widespread in the state.

As of Dec. 27, 2,892 people had been hospitalized with the flu in Ohio. In Clark County, 38 people had been hospitalized, which is 1.3 percent of the hospitalizations.

For the region including Auglaize, Champaign, Clark, Darke, Greene, Miami and Montgomery counties, there were 1,058 people hospitalized with the flu for the week of Dec. 20-27.

“There’s definitely been an increase in cases of the flu, and hospital admissions for it have gone up,” said Terry Fry, vice president of nursing at Upper Valley Medical Center. “The two groups that have been the most susceptible are older adults and young children. A lot of individuals who have been coming in with severe flu symptoms may also have pre-existing illnesses, which make their symptoms worse as opposed to an adult who is otherwise healthy.”

Upper Valley Medical Center is one of several clinics and hospitals that are putting restrictions on visitors and discouraging people with the flu to visit the ER. Fry said children younger than 14 are not allowed to visit an ill patient and other visitors must not be sick.

“We do not know if we have reached the peak for this influenza season, but our numbers are up compared to last year at this time,” said Kitty Smith, public health nurse for the Clark County Combined Health District. “Many places in the country are seeing higher than usual numbers. Hospitals are at capacity, as reported by many area hospitals.”

One of the main symptoms where the flu differs from a cold is that is comes on suddenly. With the flu, people can experience fever, cough, sore throat, stuffy or runny nose, body aches, headaches and fatigue. Vomiting and diarrhea can also occur, but is more common in children than adults.

According to the CDC, most people who get influenza will recover in a few days to less than two weeks, but some people will develop complications (such as pneumonia) as a result of the flu, some of which can be life-threatening and result in death. Pneumonia, bronchitis, sinus and ear infections are examples of complications from flu. The flu can make chronic health problems worse. For example, people with asthma may experience asthma attacks while they have the flu, and people with chronic congestive heart failure may experience worsening of this condition that is triggered by the flu.

The CDC recommends doing three things to help prevent catching the flu – get vaccinated, practice preventative steps to stop sharing germs with others (like staying away from sick people and washing hand frequently) and to get antiviral medicine from your doctor at the onset of the flu.

“It is NOT too late to get the influenza vaccine,” Smith said. “Although the vaccine may be less effective this year, with the drift, some protection is better than no protection. The vaccine covers several different strains, we have seen cases of ill patients with more than one strain, so it is important to get vaccinated.”

According to Smith, It is important for people to remember to stay home if they are ill. Do not visit healthcare or hospital settings. Go to healthcare provider or urgent care for care upon symptom onset, so you may be tested and given treatment by the provider. Cover all sneezes or coughs with by sneezing into their arm, sleeve or a tissue. Throw away any used tissues immediately; do not place them in your pocket, in your sleeve, under the watchband, etc. Most importantly, wash hands thoroughly for 20 seconds with soap and water and turn off faucet with paper towel. If a person is unable to get to a source of soap and water immediately, hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol may be used. Avoid touching the eyes, nose or mouth, as these are routes of access for germs into our bodies. Know the symptoms of influenza (may include any or all of these: fever, muscle aches, headache, lack of energy, dry cough, sore throat, and possibly a runny nose) and stay well.

For more information, visit www.cdc.org/flu or www.fluohio.org.

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