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'It's not too late'

Zoe Greszler • Feb 23, 2017 at 9:00 AM

Within one week, nine pediatric flu deaths and more than 1,400 hospitalizations have been reported and outpatient visits for influenza-like illness continue to rise.

(NOTE: To find out where Norwalk-area residents can get their flu shots, as well as how they cost, see the chart at the end of this story.)

Across the nation, about 30 pediatric deaths due to flu complications have been reported this season, two of which have been from Ohio, according to the CDC.

In Huron County, there have been about 25 flu-related hospitalizations this season reported by the Huron County Board of Health. Last season, during the same time frame, there were no hospitalizations. 

According to the CDC, this year's flu vaccine is effective 48 percent of the time and no resistance to common antivirals has been identified among the circulating strains, which is good news for those who have gotten their flu shots.

For those who haven’t gotten their vaccination yet, the health department said it’s not too late and may still be worth considering.

All but four states have been categorized as having "widespread" flu activity. Ohio is not one of those four. In fact, HCPH sent out an alert to the community advising all who haven’t received a flu shot yet to consider it.

“You can get your flu shot until we run out of doses, which is usually into June,” public health nurse Hannah Rogers said. “It’s effective on all four strains for the whole year, so even if it’s later in the (season), you’re still protected from getting sick.”

In a recent report, the CDC stated flu activity "is expected to continue for several more weeks." It’s not too late to vaccinate children and avoid these high levels of illness.

“I think it’s particularly important if your child goes to school or is in daycare,” said Nicole Marks, community health contact at HCPH. 

“It’s not too late. We advise that everyone six months and older get the flu shot and luckily there are a lot of different places you can get it, from private doctor’s offices, big box stores, pharmacies and of course here (at the health department). The CDC recommends as long as it is circulating, that you get your flu shot.”

For children, it seems that the flu may be hitting harder than the past couple years.

The latest report from HCPH reported that 4.47 percent of children from Huron County and Bellevue City Schools were absent. That’s up from 4.26 percent the week before. The same period last year reported just 3.27 percent absent and the highest rate of absence in the 2014-2015 season was only 4.1 percent in December 2014. 

While it isn’t something the health department is worried about just yet according to HCPH epidemiologist Sydney Cmar, it is something they plan to keep an eye on. 

Dr. Melissa Winterhalter, pediatrician at Nationwide Children’s Hospital, explains techniques that help make the flu shot process as painless as possible for children at every age:

* Infants respond well to swaddling, pacifiers and breastfeeding for pain control.

* Younger children (2 to 6 years old) respond well to distractions like videos, music, singing and special positioning, opportunities for choice and control such as to watch or not watch, picking which arm is used, and having a role like holding the bandage.

* Older children (6 years and older) respond well to relaxation such as deep breathing, praise and guided imagery, like imagining and talking about a favorite place.

* * *

WHERE TO GET FLU SHOTS

With all of the recommendations to get flu shots, people may wonder where is it offered, and where is the best place to get it?

Much of that question may depend on individual insurance companies since most insurances fully cover the flu shot, but for those who don’t have insurance knowing where to go can be confusing. Here’s a list of some local places that offer the shot and how much they charge. 

Rite-Aid (Norwalk): $39.99

Walgreens (Norwalk): $39.99

CVS (Norwalk and Bellevue): Out of flu shots

Walmart (Norwalk): $32

Discount Drug-Mart (Norwalk and Willard): $32 to $58

Huron County Public Health (Norwalk, Bellevue or New London offices): $30

Sandusky Kroger: $30 to $60

Doctor’s offices generally offer the flu shot as well, but prices might vary.

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