Butler County flu season is here: What to know about preventing illness

Butler County health officials are reminding residents that flu shots are available and useful as the latest flu season gains steam in Southwest Ohio.

“It is not too late or too early to get a flu shot, and we do recommend getting one,” said Jennifer Bailer, health commissioner for the Butler County General Health District.

Flu season officially starts in September, said Bailer, but moving quickly to be vaccinated is still important.

This year’s version of the vaccine, whichcovers four strains of flu virus, is readily available in numerous places such as pharmacies, primary care providers, clinics and some workplaces.

Another reason to take timely action, she said, is the vaccine takes two weeks from the time a person gets vaccinated until antibodies develop to help protect their body.

There are only two current cases of people being hospitalized in Butler County for the flu, but Bailer said the public should take no comfort in that since county health officials are only able to track those influenza victims who are sick enough to require treatment in a local hospital.

There were more than 9,800 hospitalizations and four deaths of children in Ohio during the 2018-19 flu season, along with numerous milder bouts of illness that resulted in missed work and school.

It also was a long flu season, with U.S. activity elevated for 21 weeks and two waves of flu. However, it was still a milder season than the severe 2017-18 season, when the flu led to more than 17,000 Ohio hospital stays.

There were 301 flu hospitalizations in Butler County last year, compared to the three-year average of 296, Bailer said.

“We typically see increases in flu hospitalizations between November and February. Every year is a little bit different. We expect to see the numbers trending up in a few weeks in Butler County,” Bailer said.

According to the latest weekly report ending Oct. 19, by the national Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, seasonal influenza activity in the United States increased slightly, but so far remains low.

Some people are at particularly high risk for flu complications, such as those 65 years and older, young children, those who are pregnant, those with asthma, diabetes, cancer or HIV/AIDS.

Bailer stressed the need to see a health professional quickly if flu symptoms arise to start medication quickly.

There are many options for a flu shot: from your own doctor, or retail pharmacies, or community clinics. Some stores even give a coupon if you get vaccinated against flu. Most are free shots if you have insurance.

The Butler County General Health District also gives flu and other vaccinations. Call 513-863-1770 to schedule an appointment.

Common signs and symptoms of the flu include:

• Fever over 100.4 F (38 C)

• Aching muscles.

• Chills and sweats.

• Headache.

• Dry, persistent cough.

• Fatigue and weakness.

• Nasal congestion.

• Sore throat.

(Source: Butler County General Health District)

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