Cuyahoga County Board of Health: Flu on the rise in northeast Ohio

CLEVELAND - Influenza is on the rise in northeast Ohio, the Cuyahoga County Board of Health said Thursday.

They said they are seeing an increase of influenza-like cases in their E.R. A total of 350 patients were seen on Tuesday of this week with influenza-like symptoms, a significant increase from usual numbers for December.

Samples they have tested indicate Influenza A.

Dr. Charles Emerman, chair of emergency medicine at MetroHealth Medical Center, said get a flu shot now if you have not already, as the vaccine takes some time to work.

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“Flu can strike anytime between October and March, more typically February,” Emerman said. “We’ve had years in the past where flu season has hit right during the holidays, and I think that’s going to be the case this year from what we’re seeing.”

Why the uptick?

“It makes sense. Kids are back from college, we’re out in crowds shopping and traveling. It’s not hard to imagine why we’re starting to see more cases, but we’re just in the early stages of seeing this ramp up,” Emerman said.

Here are some figures on the local increase:

- 25 flu-related hospitalizations in the last 2 weeks
- Number of hospitalizations have increased for the sixth straight week
- 80 percent of hospitalizations (that at time of admission to the hospital reported whether they received a flu shot) did not receive a flu vaccine.
- In the last two weeks, more than 6 percent of all deaths were confirmed as pneumonia-related.
- Emergency department visits for flu-like illnesses and congestion/cough went up by 35 percent in the last week.

Emerman said they are expecting to see an increase in those numbers.

Flu Symptoms include:

- High fever
- Chills
- Muscle aches
- Cough

The elderly, very young children and those with chronic health problems need to be particularly cautious and may benefit from anti-viral medication if they start them within 48 hours of first symptoms.

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