Early – and aggressive – flu season arrives in Ohio

CLEVELAND, Ohio - An early and aggressive influenza season has begun in Ohio.

Excessive sickouts caused St. Angela Merici Elementary School in Fairview Park to cancel classes for Tuesday.

The entire building will be sanitized and then according to the Diocese of Cleveland, “It will be decided when it should reopen.”

Also Monday, the Ohio Department of Health released upgraded flu activity to its highest level.

This comes about two weeks after the state said hospitalizations were much worse than a year ago.

University Hospitals has already seen a significant spike in cases.

Nearly every bed has been taken at Rainbow Babies and Children's Hospital.

“The numbers are higher than we expect this early in the season,” said Pediatric Infectious Disease Specialist Dr. Amy Edwards. “There’s also another virus called RSV (respiratory syncytial virus) and we seem to be having a bad RSV season as well."

Doctors have been surprised by the surge, but not entirely unprepared for it.

The southern hemisphere, including Australia, just had one of the worst flu seasons on record and often what happens there will also happen in the US.

“The virus called h3n2 had mutated,” said Dr. Edwards. “The virus itself underwent a mutation and so it’s a new strain we haven’t seen it before and it doesn’t match the vaccine very well because of that mutation.”

However Dr. Edwards still recommends getting the vaccine because it can shorten the severity and duration of the virus. She says this is especially true in the elderly and young children.

She also suggests people see a physician as soon as the symptoms start which include: fever, runny nose, muscle aches, backaches, headaches, vomiting, and stomach upset.

And most importantly to stop the virus from spreading she says, people must wash their hands frequently and stay home if they feel sick.