Flu is 'widespread' across Ohio, health department says

CINCINNATI -- Ohio officials warned residents Tuesday that the flu is widespread across the state.

In the first week of January, there were 287 new confirmed flue-associated hospitalizations across Ohio, compared to 157 the week before, according to the Ohio Department of Health.

Flu season in Ohio generally lasts from October to May. There have been 654 flu-associated hospitalizations in Ohio since the current flu season began, health officials said.

Officials also said that the flu vaccine is still widely available across the state.

"Influenza vaccination is the safest and most effective way to prevent the flu, except for infants younger than 6-month old who aren’t eligible to receive it," said Sietske de Fijter, chief of the Bureau of Infectious Diseases and state epidemiologist for the Ohio Department of Health. "Vaccination can reduce flu illnesses, doctors' visits and missed work and school."

In addition to vaccination, officials offered some other tips for protecting against the flu: washing hands frequently or using alcohol-based hand sanitizer, covering coughs and sneezes with tissues, avoiding touching eyes, nose and mouth and staying home when sick until fever-free for 24 hours without using fever-reducing medication.

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