Flu season strikes early, causing shortage of medication - Cincinnati News, Weather, Sports from FOX19 NOW-WXIX

Flu season strikes early, causing shortage of medication

The flu season is striking early this year. (FOX19 NOW file) The flu season is striking early this year. (FOX19 NOW file)

Flu season is striking early this year, prompting area hospitals to take precautions.

Doctors say simple sneeze could spread the flu from one person to three others in a matter of seconds. Now with a shortage of flu fighting medication and a less than perfect vaccination, the number of flu cases in the Tri-State are skyrocketing.

"Anywhere from three to five cases every four hours on average. At least 10-15 cases a day,” said Dr. Marcus Romanello, Chief Medical Officer at Fort Hamilton Hospital in Hamilton.

Dr. Romanello says they are seeing a 10 percent jump in ER visits due to the flu virus. To make matters worse, the flu vaccine is falling short.

"It's not working as well as we had hoped. Due to a change in the flu virus this year, the flu vaccine is not as effective,” says Dr. Romanello.

Officials at Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center say that they're not seeing higher flu numbers than normal, just a lot earlier.

Influenza activity at the hospital has increased steadily in recent days, with a big spike in the last two weeks, they said.

Health officials usually they don't see the first cases until after Thanksgiving, followed by the peak in February. However, cases do peak in December about once every five years.

One possible reason why is that initial reports from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) show that vaccine isn't effectively protecting against the most dominant flu strain, H3N2.

It is a lesson Hilary Knecht learned the hard way with her two daughters ages 3 and 7.

"I always get the flu shot or the flu mist for them and in general it works just fine. Roughly 4 to 6 weeks later they both got it,” said Knecht.

Children's Hospital officials have started restricting visitors, something they do whenever respiratory illnesses are widespread in the community.

All visitors - including parents - should be healthy, no fevers, coughs, colds, or stomach virus symptoms.

Only visitors under the age of 14 allowed in must be siblings. No more than two visitors are permitted in a room at a time.

Hospital officials said they're also offering free vaccines for all family members, especially those with kids who have long stays for serious illnesses.

Dr. Romanello says there is also a local shortage of Tamiflu, the drug used to fight flu symptoms like fever, nausea, vomiting, body aches and coughing. The most susceptible to the virus are young children, the elderly, pregnant women and those with chronic illnesses.

While the flu vaccine is less than ideal, Dr. Romanello says it is still the best option in fighting the virus and keeping it from spreading.

"You still have time to get vaccinated if you have not caught the flu yet so go out there and get vaccinated,” said Romanello.

Dr. Romanello says if you do catch the flu, it usually lasts for about 5 days. He's says it's best to keep children at home and adults from work during that time to keep the virus from spreading. Also, be sure to regularly wash your hands throughout the season.

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