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Published: Saturday, 4/5/2008

Fulton County flu cases 8 times higher

BY JULIE M. McKINNON
BLADE STAFF WRITER

Influenza came back in full force this winter, at least for residents of some area counties.

The number of reported flu cases in Fulton County already is more than eight times higher this season than last.

The county has had 484 flu cases reported so far this winter and spring season, and there likely are a few more weeks to go, said Mike Oricko, Fulton County health commissioner.

It already is the worst flu season in a number of years, primarily because flu shots lacked protection for an emerging strain and were not as effective, he said.

"A number of people got the flu who in other years wouldn't have," Mr. Oricko said.

"It seemed to be a strain that got passed around pretty quickly."

The flu season emerged later than normal this season nationwide, and the new and unexpected strain not targeted by this winter's vaccine caused wide outbreaks in several states, U.S. health officials have said.

Lucas and Ottawa counties both had more than three times more reported flu or flulike cases this season, although the incidences last winter were particularly low, health commissioners for those counties said.

Ottawa County's 877 reported flulike cases reported so far this season are a moderately heavy number, said Nancy Osborn, Ottawa County health commissioner.

And the 864 flu cases in Lucas County reported so far this season are about normal, although the onset started later than usual, said Dr. David Grossman, commissioner of the Toledo-Lucas County health department.

"It was not a bad year," Dr. Grossman said.

"It just was not as good as last year."

Both Ohio and Michigan had more flu cases this season than last, but they were typical numbers overall, state health spokesmen said.

Ohio had seven weeks of widespread activity, up from three weeks last season, said Jay Carey, spokesman for the Ohio Department of Health.

Residents of Hamilton County, however, got a stark reminder earlier this year that flu is a serious illness when a 9-year-old boy died from it, Mr. Carey said.

"Anytime you lose someone, especially at that age, it's a tragedy," he said.

Wood, Monroe, and Hancock counties had normal numbers of flu cases reported this season, officials in those health departments said.



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