An 8-month-old boy from Ashland County is the first pediatric flu death of the season, the Ohio Department of Health reported Friday.
Following an unusually slow season that saw only 108 hospitalizations statewide in 2020-2021, Ohio has reported 972 flu-associated hospitalizations so far this season. At this point during the 2019-2020 flu season for example, the state saw 10,540 hospitalizations related to the flu. Abnormally low numbers from 2020-2021 were a product of COVID-19 restrictions and social distancing efforts, experts say.
The flu typically peaks between December and February, but can still linger during April and May. Physicians monitor pediatric deaths from the flu becaue young children (5 and under) are at a higher risk of developing serious flu-related complications than other age groups. An average of 125 children die from the flu each year in the United States. In 2020, only one death was reported.
What’s been a mild 2021-22 season so far comes after concern last summer that Americans could face a “twindemic” of flu and COVID-19.
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Cincinnati region flu this season
In Hamilton County, 66 patients have been hospitalized with the flu so far this season, a number up from 11 last year, but significantly lower than the 815 reported in 2019-2020.
“Significantly less flu in our community this year than other years,” Hamilton County public health director Greg Kesterman said. “I attribute the significant decline of the flu in our county and in our state very much to some of those prevention measures that we’ve all been doing for the last few years to protect our families from COVID-19.”
Though it is late in the season, Kesterman said the best way to protect yourself and your children from the flu is to receive the flu vaccine. In addition to the vaccine, he hopes some of the cleanliness measures that became normalized during the pandemic, such as regularly washing hands, become permanent habits so the community can “stay healthy year-round.”
“Flu season runs until very late spring until the 20th week of the year, and so if you’ve not been vaccinated against the flu, it’s never too late,” he said. “And I would say once again, get vaccinated this fall.”
Kesterman said the following can also help protect you from the flu this season:
- Staying home if you’re sick.
- Washing your hands regularly and when you return home from a public setting.
- Covering coughs.
There have been 42 influenza hospitalizations in Butler County so far this season, 20 in Clermont, and 22 in Warren. Much like statewide trends, those numbers are far below pre-pandemic reports from 2019-2020 (296 in Butler, 156 in Warren, and 150 in Clermont).
Across state lines, the Kentucky Department of Health has upgraded its flu activity level to widespread after a recent uptick in recorded cases.
This week in northern Kentucky, 171 cases have been recorded in Boone County, 188 in Campbell County, and 193 in Kenton County. The state’s first flu death of the season was reported in February.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2,820 patients had been hospitalized with the flu in the United States during the most recent week report.