Ohio flu hospitalizations down 99% from this time last year

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Mar. 12—Flu hospitalizations and infections are down significantly from years past and local heath professionals say Ohio may be in the clear as warm weather gets closer.

Two people in Ohio were hospitalized from the flu this past week, Feb. 28 through March 6, according to Ohio Department of Health data.

There has been one flu-related hospitalization in Butler County so far this flu season, one hospitalization in Darke, one hospitalization in Greene, two in Miami, four in Montgomery and two in Warren. There have been no influenza-related hospitalizations in Clark or Champaign counties so far this flu season. Total, there have been 99 flu-related hospitalizations in Ohio this flu season.

Flu hospitalizations are down nearly 99% of what they were this time last flu season and well below the five-year average.

"The flu is pretty much nonexistent this year," said Dan Suffoletto, spokesman for Public Health — Dayton and Montgomery County.

Heading into the flu season, which starts to be tracked around the first week of October, public health leaders said they were hoping that COVID-19 measures would keep flu cases low but were urgently preparing for the possibility of twin surges. While the COVID measures have kept flu at almost non-existent levels, the more contagious coronavirus remained widespread.

Dr. Jamie Yunger, medical director of the Intensive Care Unit at Atrium Medical Center in Middletown, said this is the best flu season he's ever seen.

"I've not seen fewer flu cases in the last 20 years," Yunger said.

Many of the precautions people are taking to keep the coronavirus at bay are also tamping down on the flu, Yunger said, like wearing a face mask, washing hands and social distancing.

Suffoletto said with people taking all these precautions, it is not surprising that flu hospitalizations would be down.

International travel was shut down. Working from home and remote learning around also played a role in mitigating the spread of the flu, he said.

"When it comes to the flu, much of the transmission is thought to be by kids who bring it home to their families from school," Yunger said.

Yunger said Ohioans are likely out of the woods, as April and the end of flu season are quickly approaching.

As the weather gets warmer and people are able to get back outside, the chances of spreading the flu go down.

At this same time in 2020, from Feb. 23 to Feb. 29, there were 959 flu-related hospitalizations. At this point in the flu season of 2019-2020 there had been more than 8,500 flu-related hospitalizations in Ohio. In Montgomery County this time last year there were 652 flu-related hospitalizations.

By the end of last flu season over 11,000 people had been hospitalized in Ohio.

Also, one child has died in the U.S. from the flu where this time last year 92 children in the U.S. had died. No children in Ohio have died from the flu as of March 6, the most recent data available.

Some things from pandemic life could help mitigate the spread of the influenza next flu season. Yunger said the flu germs stay on surfaces for 24 hours, so sanitizing surfaces more frequently and washing hands thoroughly and frequently will help stop the spread.

Also, like with the coronavirus, avoiding social gatherings and public places when you know you are sick can help stop the flu.

Suffoletto said this flu season has proved that the things recommended to prevent catching the flu, like washing hands and surfaces and wearing a mask, work.

"Those things were done to the extreme this year and we saw an extreme decrease in flu cases and hospitalizations," Suffoletto said.