By Sherrod Brown
Following tragic reports of deaths from the flu in Ohio, Connie and I send our thoughts and prayers to the families of those who have lost a loved one to this terrible and sudden illness.
At the same time, we must actively take steps to prevent the illness from spreading. My office has been briefed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on new information about this season’s flu and the preventive steps Ohioans can take. Through sharing this information, it is my hope that each of us will do everything we can to avert another flu-related death in our community.
Seasonal flu in Ohio is already widespread. To put it into perspective, in the first week of 2013, 694 confirmed flu-associated hospitalizations were reported. This time last year, there were under 50 flu-associated hospitalizations.
In order to ensure citizens are up-to-date with information, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) publishes weekly updates about current activity and a summary of the flu’s status. The link is available here: www.cdc.gov/flu/weekly/fluactivitysurv.htm.
The CDC also recommends everyone six months and older receive a flu vaccine. Individuals with medical conditions, pregnant women, and people over 65 are especially encouraged to get vaccinated, as are medical professionals and people who live with the aforementioned individuals.
Terry Allan, RS, MPH, Cuyahoga County Board of Health Commissioner, and President-Elect of the of National Association of County and City Health Officials, says that the flu shot is an important tool in fighting spread of the illness. Most patients being seen by health professionals have not had the flu shot. He reminds us that, “There is still plenty of time to get vaccinated, and plenty of vaccine available. Cases can peak in late January or February, and new cases can be found into March and even April. Shots are available from your doctor’s office, health department, or local drug store.” He also encourages calling your physician if symptoms persist or worsen, especially high fever or listlessness. He explains that, “A doctor can help you decide whether an emergency room visit is warranted. In most cases, you can ride the flu out at home.”
In addition to the recommended vaccine, there are several other precautionary measures individuals can take toward preventing the flu. Some simple steps you can take to stay healthy during the flu season include:
• Washing your hands with soap and warm water for about 20 seconds.
• Covering your cough with your elbow and using a tissue when sneezing.
• Practicing healthy habits like eating a balanced diet rich in fruits and vegetables; drinking plenty of water; exercising regularly; getting adequate rest; and staying away from sick people.
Also, public health experts advise that individuals or children who get sick stay home from work or school and childcare if they become infected.
The State of Ohio through the Ohio Department of Health is also monitoring this season’s flu. More state specific information as well as links to your local health department is available at www.odh.ohio.gov/features/odhfeatures/seasflu/seasonalinfluenza.aspx.
I encourage all Ohioans—parents and teachers, employers and workers—to learn how to protect themselves and their family from the flu. Together, we can work to prevent the illness from spreading and tragically taking another life.
Sherrod Brown is a United States Senator from Ohio.