Ohio flu hospitalizations climb, prompting caution and optimism

Ohio’s flu-related hospitalizations increased by more than 50 from the previous week, new data released Friday by the Ohio Department of Health said.

The increase was smaller than previous weeks, prompting some optimism and words of caution from one local expert.

“While it looks like (the flu) may be leveling off, it is still significantly higher than the five year average,” said president of the Greater Dayton Area Hospital Association, Bryan Bucklew. “It has been above average since it started.”

From Jan. 7 through Jan. 13, the state reported 1,805 people in Ohio were hospitalized with influenza-like illnesses. Of those, 458 of those were in Montgomery County.

For the previous reporting period, Dec. 31 through Jan. 6, the state recorded 1,750 flu-related hospitalizations.

The 2017-2018 numbers for reported flu cases and hospitalizations due to the flu have been above the five-year average. While the smaller week to week increase is encouraging to health officials, the flu is unpredictable.

MORE: Hospitalizations explode: Flu season may be worst in years

“It’s been a strong flu season,” Bucklew said. “Our hope would be that instances of flu are lower because of their early start.”

Area hospitals have put restrictions on visitors and local health officials throughout the region have encouraged people to get a vaccine and take precautions to prevent the spread of the flu.

Those restrictions are still in effect, according to Bucklew.

MORE: Flu cases rampant in Ohio: 5 things you need to know

With influenza being at its highest level in almost all states, other organizations are taking steps to prevent spread of the flu.

The Roman Catholic Diocese of Portland, Maine, decided to change some Mass traditions to keep parishioners healthy.

TIME said the diocese announced Jan. 18 it is suspending sharing wine during communion and holding hands during Our Father.

The US Conference of Catholic Bishops urges "priests, deacons and extraordinary ministers of Holy Communion" to practice good hygiene and to instruct church-goers not to drink from the chalice if they are sick.

The Archdiocese of Cincinnati, which includes the Miami Valley, has not taken an official position on the matter, with a spokesperson saying that they leave “the running of a parish up to the pastor.”

The University of Dayton is relying on its students to use “common sense” when it comes to Mass and flu season.

“We’re still offering the chalice; we’re not putting out any kind of memo. We are relying on students to stay home if they are sick,” said Kathy Sales, associate director of campus ministry.

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