Flu cases are down from last year’s extreme numbers, but officials are still warning about safety

Butler County flu hospitalizations this season are a fraction of last year’s severe outbreak, but it still would be wise to get a flu immunization at a time the number of flu cases traditionally increase, health officials say.

From September through December, 13 people have been hospitalized in the county this season, compared with 61 a year ago.

“The official flu season begins in September of each year with a few cases trickling in,” said Jennifer Bailer, the Butler County health commissioner. “Last year the numbers really picked up dramatically in December, but we have not seen that kind of increase so far this year.”

Still, “we are expecting to see the numbers trending up soon in Butler County,” she said.

Nobody was hospitalized in the county with the flu during September. Two were in October, three were in November and 7 were in December, according to Butler County General Health District statistics.

It isn’t too late to get a flu shot, “and we do recommend getting one,” Bailer wrote in an email.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention since 2010 has recommend everybody 6 months or older receive a flu vaccine every season.

People who particularly should get shots, according to the CDC, are:

  • Children younger than 5, but especially those under 2;
  • Adults 65 or older;
  • Pregnant women, and those who recently were pregnant;
  • Residents of nursing homes or other long-term senior care facilities;
  • American Indians and Alaska Natives seem to be at higher risk of flu complications;
  • People with Asthma;
  • Those with neurological conditions, chronic lung disease, heart disease, blood disorders, endocrine disorders (such as diabetes), liver disorders, kidney disorders; those with weakened immune systems, due to HIV, AIDS or cancer, anyone with extreme obesity and those younger than 19 on long-term aspirin therapy.

Bailer said people can get flu shots from their doctors, retail pharmacies or community clinics. Some pharmacies give coupons to those who get flu shots from them. The county health district also gives out shots. People can call 513-863-1770 to schedule appointments. People should also consider getting Hepatitis A vaccinations at the same time as the flu shot if they are in a high-risk group (drug users, recently in jail or homeless), she said.

Bailer recommends people get flu shots and encourage their families and those they live with to also do so. Those who are ill shouldn’t go to school or work. Instead, they should stay home, rest, and drink plenty of fluids.

Another important flu-prevention method is to wash hands frequently throughout the day, after using the bathroom, and after coughing or sneezing.

Those who think they may have the flu should call their doctor or nurse practitioner right away to see if an anti-flu medicine such as Tamiflu is right for them, because it can shorten the flu’s length and severity, but it must be used early, she said.

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