CLEVELAND (WJW)-- Cases of the flu are on the rise in Northeast Ohio as the nation's top infectious disease doctor says this could be one of the worst flu seasons in years.
During the week of Dec. 22, the most recent for which data is available, the Cuyahoga County Board of Health reported flu activity increased to moderate. The agency reported during that week, more than 600 people went to emergency departments for flu-related symptoms, the highest number for that week in the last decade.
Statewide, the Ohio Department of Health said there have been more than 1,000 flu-related hospitalizations so far this season, nearly double the amount during the same period last year.
Still, Richard Stacklin, who tracks flu data for the Cuyahoga County Board of Health, said it's difficult to predict how the season will progress and when cases of the flu will peak.
"In recent years it's actually been around this time of year. Traditionally, it used to be February into March, so it's hard to tell if we're at the peak or if we're going to continue going up," he said.
Cleveland Clinic Children's Hospital Dr. Frank Esper said the health system has seen more cases of Influenza B earlier than in other years.
"It kind of came out of nowhere at the end of November and all the way through December. We've been seeing huge numbers of influenza cases about a month, if not a little bit more than a month, earlier than what we expect," Esper said.
The Centers for Disease Control reported 27 pediatric deaths related to the flu so far this season, the most during the period since record keeping began 17 years ago.
The death last week of 16-year-old Berea-Midpark High School student Kaylee Roberts because of complications from the flu marked the first pediatric death in Ohio.
Esper recommended people get a flu shot to reduce chances of getting the flu and to reduce the severity of the virus.
Stacklin also reminded people to wash hands and stay home when sick.