Flu cases on the rise across the nation, could continue to get worse

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CUYAHOGA COUNTY, Ohio (WJW) -- Flu cases are continuing to rise across the nation and are expected to continue for weeks, according to the CDC. 

The public health institute projects flu activity will likely stay elevated through the end of the month with high activity in most states, including Ohio.

State health officials say there have been nearly 5,500 hospitalizations since the beginning of our flu season on September 29, and Cuyahoga County has one of the highest hospitalization rates.

As the Ohio Department of Health announces hospitalizations have more than doubled from last flu season, people are keeping their hand sanitizer nearby.

"If I don't have a chance to wash my hands, I've got my little pink guy handy, just in case," said Shelly Keller.

Keller already came down with the virus in December, she says, worse than ever before.

"I literally had to go to the doctor's twice, got lots of medication and I was homebound for weeks because you feel that miserable and the cough never leaves, so it took a long, long time," she recalled.

The week of February 2-8, the state reported nearly 1,000 hospitalizations, 19 percent more than the previous week.

In Cuyahoga County, officials say flu activity remains "very high" for the second straight week. There have been more than 1,000 confirmed cases in the county this season.

"I'm very wary, and I'm always washing my hands and afraid to touch things especially during flu season, cold season," said Chris Hagen.

The Cuyahoga County Board of Health recently reported another flu-related death of a 33-year-old man from North Olmsted, bringing the total number of deaths in the county for this season to nine.

"It's a terrible situation and it definitely makes you thankful to get your flu shot," said Hagen.

Lake Health is temporarily limiting visitors at its three hospitals: West Medical Center, Beachwood Medical Center and TriPoint Medical Center in Concord Township.

Only two healthy adult visitors will be allowed per patient and must wash their hands before and after their visit.

"We want to try to keep our family members healthy. We want to try to keep our patients healthy, try to keep our staff healthy and we try to do this by placing restrictions in place when the flu activity gets really that high," said Dr. John Baniewicz.

They also request that anyone with flu-like symptoms reschedule any out-patient appointments. 

"Don't come visit at the hospital if you're sick; stay home, probably stay home from work if you're sick so that you don't spread the infection to other people," said Dr. Baniewicz.

The state has reported two pediatric flu deaths thus far, girls ages 11 and 16. Ohio doesn't track adult flu deaths.

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