BROOKLYN, Ohio - The flu is hitting Ohio early and hitting it hard. So far this flu season, 863 people have been hospitalized with the bug, according to the Ohio Department of Health.
Around this time last year, 65 people had been hospitalized with influenza.
The surge in flu cases has been significant during the last few weeks. State reports shows 326 people were hospitalized with the flu between Dec. 16 and Dec. 22, compared with 9 hospitalizations during the same time frame in 2011.
"We're definitely seeing more patient volumes and sicker patients than we normally see," said Dr. Neil Smith, a physician at Ridge Park Urgent Care in Brooklyn. "Our normal volume here would be anywhere between -- on a daily basis -- about 40 patients. We're seeing 75-80 patients a day now."
Smith said most of the patients have flu-like symptoms and many of the patients are seriously ill. Smith said he recently sent an elderly patient to the hospital after he discovered the patient had the flu and pneumonia.
"We've been seeing people who've been sick for 2-3 weeks now and that's a little different than we normally see," he explained.
Tony Kado brought his daughter, Destiny, to the urgent care center Monday. He decided to come back Tuesday because of the crowd.
"We came here yesterday and the waiting room was full of people and almost every person was coughing and wheezing and sneezing."
Destiny has bronchitis, but Kado is worried he'll soon be bringing her back to the doctor.
"It's that time of year," he said.
To avoid the flu, get a flu shot. Smith said it's not too late to benefit from the vaccine. He also said frequently wash your hands and use hand sanitizer to help avoid the spread of germs.