Influenza is on the rise in northeast Ohio, the Cuyahoga County Board of Health said Thursday.
CLEVELAND - More than 1,200 people had been hospitalized for the flu in Ohio last year, according to the Ohio Department of Health. That's a dramatic jump from 2011 when just 71 people were hospitalized.
"It is a bad year," said Dr. Stephen Meldon, director of the emergency department at Cleveland Clinic's main campus.
Meldon said his staff have been very busy this season treating an influx of patients with flu-like symptoms: fever, chills, headache, muscle aches and dry cough.
"This year, it's a strain that's hit early and spread fast," Meldon said.
At least half of the regions in Ohio have experienced an outbreak this season. Therefore, the Ohio Department of Health classifies the state's flu activity level as "widespread."
"We're seeing a high volume of patients coming in with high fever, chills, body aches. Just real sick symptoms," said Cory Cocco, a registered nurse in the emergency department at Cleveland Clinic's main campus, who added that the flu is rampant where he works.
According to Meldon, one of the classic signs of the flu is its abrupt onset followed by a week of flu-like symptoms.
If you suspect you have the flu, doctors recommend drinking plenty of fluids, getting a lot of rest and taking Tylenol.
Young children, the elderly and those with medical issues who contract the flu should seek medical attention immediately.
"If you're a high-risk patient or if you're really sick, you're having a lot of shortness of breath, trouble breathing, maybe you're confused because you have such a high fever. It's one of those things that if really, really look sick to your loved ones or they look sick to you, they really should be evaluated," Meldon said.
Meanwhile, MetroHealth Medical Center's infectious disease specialist Dr. Melissa Osborn said that it's not too late to get a flu shot and that you can't get the flu from the vaccine. The hospital said they do not track the number of flu cases each season, but it is up from last year.
NewsChannel5's Lee Jordan spoke with a doctor about how this flu season is particularly active. See the video for the interview.
Supervisor of Clinical Services at the Cuyahoga County Board of Health Cindy Modie and the staff there are gearing up for an impending flu immunization season.
Residents in Lorain County can head to the fairgrounds Tuesday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. for a flu vaccine. The flu shot costs $15. For non-residents, it costs $20.
The American Academy of Pediatrics urged parents Monday to vaccinate children against the flu as soon as possible.
The number of Ohioans hospitalized with the flu since last September jumped dramatically over the previous year, but health officials say there isn't an easy explanation for the increase.
The flu season is winding down, and it has killed 105 children so far -- about the average toll.
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