There has been “a definite increase” in influenza and influenza-like illnesses in the county, said Kim Cupp, Fulton County Health Department commissioner.
In a press release, Cupp said the increase in influenza in the county “mirrors what is happening across the state and nation, and has been the focus of many recent news reports.
“The Ohio Department of Health reports widespread activity with 3,857 people being hospitalized with influenza as of Saturday, Jan. 6.
“This is a significant increase compared to 654 hospitalizations observed at this time during the 2016-17 flu season.”
It is an increase of about 490%.
While Fulton County Health Department and state officials are reporting major hikes in flu and flu-like illnesses, area school districts say they are not seeing the same indications.
In an email message last week, Aaron Rex, Archbold superintendent, said, “I checked with the secretaries and they said they have not seen a noticeable increase in the flu or student absences.
“I have not seen this with my staff or administration.
“We have seen some increases in strep, which seems to be getting better, and recently, some stomach bugs.
“Our custodians do an excellent job keeping the desks, drinking fountains, door handles, and overall buildings clean.
“We have not taken any other precautions, as I have not been made aware that we are having an excess of absences.”
Mike Lane, Pettisville High School principal, said in a Thursday, Jan. 11 email, “We did not have school on Monday (Jan. 8) due to snow.
“I had seven students not in school (grades 7-12) on Tuesday, and six not in school today.
“That is roughly a 97% attendance rate, which is average for the high school semester exam week.
“I have had all teachers in the building this week, and as far as I know, they are all healthy. The same goes for the office staff and custodial personnel.”
While the schools may not have seen an increase in influenza, the Fulton County Health Center announced visitor restrictions Wednesday afternoon, Jan. 10.
An FCHC spokesman said Monday the restrictions were still in place.
FCHC said in a press release the restrictions are temporary, to “help protect patients, family members, other visitors and staff from unnecessary exposure and potential infection to the flu.
“The current flu season is developing differently this year compared to previous years.
“It has started earlier, (and) more people are becoming ill.”
FCHC restrictions include:
•Visitors must be at least 18 years of age.
•Visitors will be limited to two adults per patient.
•Patients must limit the number of relatives and friends accompanying them to the emergency services department, outpatient areas, surgery waiting areas, procedure areas, primary care and specialist physician offices.
•Anyone over the age of 18 who is considering visiting one of the patients and is experiencing one of the following symptoms– cold, fever, coughing, sneezing– should restrict visits.
While Fairlawn was under quarantine earlier in the month, the restriction was lifted Tuesday, Jan. 9, said Mari Yoder, director of marketing and communications.
“We can all eat in the dining room, we can have activities, we can have church services again,” she said.
Although the facility was technically under quarantine, the general public could still visit the facility.
As part of the precautions against influenza, signs were posted at the entrances advising people that there were people ill with the flu. Masks and hand sanitizers were provided.
Yoder said the signs are still in place.
Over the last two weeks, while there still may be residents with cases of influenza, things have improved at the care facility, Yoder said.
In the Fulton County Health Department press release, Cupp said, “Physicians and hospitals are only required to report hospitalized patients with influenza, but many also provide additional information to the health department.
“Such reports include the number of people who have positive lab tests for influenza as well as those who have symptoms of influenza (also known as influenza-like illness or ILI), but who did not have testing.
“Symptoms of the flu can include fever, cough, sore throat, body aches, headaches, chills, and fatigue.
“The number of reported influenza and ILI cases in our community for the month of December 2017 totaled 73, compared to only 32 in December 2016,” a roughly 129% increase.
“As of (Thursday), Jan. 11, there have been 210 cases of influenza and ILI reported during the 2017-18 flu season,” Cupp said.
“A significant increase in the number of hospitalizations due to influenza was seen during recent weeks.
“There were 13 hospitalizations in our community during the first two weeks of January, bringing the total Fulton County hospitalizations to 21 for the 2017-18 flu season.
“How long it will continue at that rate is unknown. The influenza season can last as late as May.”