What it means to say ‘no cases of the flu’

Sarah Hawley

January 10, 2014

MEIGS COUNTY — In an article published early this week, it was stated that there have been no cases of the flu this flu season in Meigs County. But what does that really mean when so many people are sick with influenza-like symptoms?

Leanne Cunningham, director of nursing at the Meigs County Health Department, stated that it simply means there are no “reported” cases of the flu in the county.

While some people may test positive for the flu in the rapid flu tests given at the local health care facilities, not all positive tests are required to be reported.

All reporting is done at the state level and not through the local health departments.

Ohio law only requires the reporting of patients who are hospitalized due to influenza and of pediatric deaths due to influenza. These reports, along with influenza-like illness data from sentinel health care providers, constitute an effective strategy of monitoring flu activity, trends, and severity without the actual tracking of each and every rapid influenza test administered. Of course, not everyone who has the flu seeks medical care and of those that do, not all are tested for influenza. Once influenza is circulating in an area, clinicians may often diagnose and treat the illness based on symptoms alone.

Though it is not possible to predict which influenza viruses will dominate the entire 2013-14 flu season, the viruses circulating nationally continue to be a good match for the 2013-14 flu vaccine. Additionally, the predominant strain circulating currently is the pH1N1 virus (the same H1N1 virus from 2009) and if it continues to circulate widely, flu illnesses may disproportionately affect young and middle-aged adults.

Ohio (as of most recent report for Week 52-December 22-28, 2013) is experiencing regional flu activity which means increased influenza-like illness in less than half of the regions in Ohio and recent lab confirmed influenza in the regions that are affected.

“It will not be surprising if the Week 1 report for December 29, 2013-January 4, 2014 bumps Ohio up to widespread flu activity, judging from preliminary data,” said Cunningham. As of last report, one hundred one influenza-associated hospitalizations this flu season were reported in the Northeast Region, 36 in the East Central Region, 18 in the Central Region, 15 in the Southwest Region, 14 in the Northwest Region, 4 in the Southeast and 8 in the West Central Region. In addition, we are seeing an increase in the number of influenza associated hospitalizations, including in the Southeast Region.

To date, Meigs County has had one influenza related hospitalization since the original report was provided.

For any further questions or concerns, please call the Health Department at 740-992-6626.