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Friday, January 12th, 2018

Influenza onslaught continues

Illness 'widespread' in 46 states, health official says

By Ed Gebert
WAPAKONETA - Flu season is hitting the area and the nation hard this year.
Nationally the flu is at its most serious classification, "widespread," in 46 states, Auglaize County Health Department Director of Nursing Brenda Eiting said at Thursday's regular meeting. Many areas report three to four times as many cases as they did last year.
This season, seven influenza cases requiring hospitalization had been reported in Auglaize County through December, and another seven cases surfaced in the first 11 days of 2018. In Mercer County, health district epidemiologist Deb Scheer told the newspaper six cases had been reported through December, but from Jan. 1-10, another 15 cases materialized. Influenza requiring hospitalization must be reported to county health departments.
The Ohio Department of Health confirmed Wednesday that the state had experienced Ohio's first pediatric flu death of the 2017-2018 flu season when a 4-year-old Montgomery County boy had died. Later that day, a second pediatric flu death was confirmed when an 18-month-old child died in Lucas County.
Thus far, all local flu cases have been of a strain known as H3N2, which this year's flu shot does fight, Eiting said. She said it is important to stay healthy, especially for those who may not be as strong physically.
"The community needs to hear it. We recommend flu shots for all people 6 months and older. Even if the flu shot this year is 30 percent effective, it still lessens the severity of the disease. The strain this year typically makes the young children and older adults very ill, so if we're not protecting ourselves, we're helping to protect our community," she said.
Eiting also reminded the group that flu shots prevent or reduce the severity of respiratory flu, not gastrointestinal illnesses. She said that Auglaize County Health Department personnel have given 605 flu shots this year, and that doctors and other providers have also been inoculating.
"Symptoms of flu can include fever, cough, sore throat, body aches, headache, chills and fatigue. Flu vaccination is available at most health-care providers' offices, local health departments and retail pharmacies," noted Scheer. "There are no flu vaccine shortages across Ohio. Other effective ways to avoid getting or spreading the flu include: washing hands frequently or using alcohol-based hand sanitizer; covering coughs and sneezes with tissues, or coughing or sneezing into elbows; avoiding touching eyes, nose and mouth; and staying home when sick."
Board members also heard that the department is again offering free radon test kits for county residents. Auglaize County Environmental Health Director Curt Anderson announced that the department will again participate in National Radon Action Month this January.
"It was well received last year. We had 15 or 20 people call in and ask about the program, and about half a dozen people got high results and called us and asked us to explain the results to them in terms of what they should or shouldn't do," Anderson said.
In other action, members,
• passed a certificate of estimated resources and permanent appropriations for $2.39 million for the health department and $173,647 for Family and Children First.
• reappointed Linda Kitzmiller as board president and Dr. Dan Harpster as board vice president for 2018.
• approved receipts for December for the health department of $36,098 and $17,035 for Family and Children First.
• approved December expenditures for the health department of $160,380 and $12,303 for Family and Children First.
• appropriated $54,380 for the board of health for salaries and supplies to make up for a shortfall in 2017 appropriations.
• agreed to a memorandum of understanding with Stroh Village Apartments to participate in a program to promote infant mortality awareness by applying for state funding for program activities.
• approved the payment of December bills for the health department of $54,971 and $1,881 for Family and Children First.
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