Nurse Mary Sheehy gives a flu vaccine injection to Megan Vahey Casiere, chief of planning and development for Lucas County, at One Government Center in Toledo.
As Toledo-Lucas County Health Department officials warn that more people have likely died from the flu over this last weekend, more information has become available about one of the victims who died from the H1N1 strain of the virus just before the new year.
The victim, James A. Crosby, 50, of Temperance, died Dec. 28 in Toledo Hospital. Mr. Crosby was a truck driver who recently became employed by Spader Freight Service in Clyde. He did not get a flu shot because he was very healthy and didn’t feel he needed one, said his mother, Linda Crosby.
The other known victim of H1N1 in Lucas County was 62-year-old Toledo resident Connie Bucklew, who died Jan. 7 in Toledo Hospital. Ms. Bucklew was semiretired after working more than 30 years in the insurance industry. She also did not get a flu shot this year, said her husband, Jim Bucklew.
When contacted, officials at Mercy Health Systems, ProMedica hospitals, and the University of Toledo Medical Center, formerly the Medical College of Ohio, refused to release any information about people who died in their hospitals from the flu virus. Hospital officials also refused to give information about the number of people who are seriously ill with flu-related symptoms in their intensive care units.
Lucas County Health Commissioner David Grossman said he has to wait for area hospital officials to release information confirming the other deaths before he can release the ages and residences of the victims to the public.
“There has been some discussion that there were one or two [more] people that may have died,” Dr. Grossman said at a news conference on Monday. “We tried to call even five minutes before this press conference and we have not been able to get any confirmation.”
The hospital staff members who write the reports were off over the weekend, said Dr. Grossman. However, he still had not received the information by 5 p.m. Monday.
"We still have a sense that it is increasing. We are at levels that are obviously higher than we have been in the past few years. We are probably 30 to 40 percent higher than at this point last year,” said Dr. Grossman, who noted that this flu season is by no means of pandemic proportions.
These are the first deaths from flu-related illness in the area in at least two years, he said.
Mr. Crosby spent almost three weeks at Toledo hospital, “fighting for his life,”while battling the H1N1 flu virus, his mother said.
“He went into the hospital Dec. 5. He was running a high fever and he couldn’t stop coughing. He was vomiting. He was so sick,” she said.
When Mr. Crosby entered the hospital, doctors told his mother that since he was young and healthy he had a good chance of recovering from the flu and pneumonia that had developed.
After about a week, however, they transferred him to intensive care and placed him on a ventilator and told Ms. Crosby that there was a possibility her son would not make it.
“I told them that’s my baby. He might be 50 years old, but that’s my baby,” she said.
She said Mr. Crosby rarely got sick and that he was very conscientious about washing his hands several times a day and that he would wipe his entire truck down with sanitizer.
“I honestly don’t think there is anything he could have done different. It got a hold of him and it just took him,” she said.
Officials at Mercy Health Systems said in the last three weeks there have been 71 confirmed cases of the flu in its hospitals, which include St. Vincent, St. Charles, and St. Anne.
That number includes people who tested positive in outpatient labs but were never admitted to the hospital, said Mercy spokesman Sarah Bednarski. She said there were no additional flu-related admissions to the hospital this last weekend.
Since Dec. 1 at Toledo Hospital, there have been 42 people admitted who have tested positive for flu, including three new cases from this last weekend, said spokesman Serena Smith.
Officials at UTMC said they have also seen the number of patients with influenza-like illness increase in recent weeks.
The hospital has had 29 patients with the flu in the last two weeks — of those 10 were admitted to the hospital, said spokesman Meghan Cunningham.
Dr. Grossman is urging the public to get a flu shot. He said it takes about two weeks to be fully protected, although no flu vaccine is 100 percent effective.
The Lucas County Health Department, 635 N. Erie St., will hold two walk-in flu clinics this week: Wednesday from 4 to 6 p.m., and Saturday, from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.
The flu vaccine also can be found in doctor’s offices and at drug stores in the Toledo area.
“We were bombarded yesterday with people coming in to get the flu shot,” Diment Singh, pharmacist at the Walgreens store at Navarre Avenue and Wheeling Road, said Monday.
He said customers told him that other pharmacies in the area were out of the vaccine and directed them to his store.
Although the vaccine is going fast, he said Walgreens stores are working together and sending doses to the locations where they are most in demand.
“People are rushing in due to the news of the outbreak.
National and local news stories are increasing awareness, and when you have fatalities that gets people to open their eyes,” said Carrie Owen, pharmacist at the Walgreens store at Reynolds Road and Dorr Street.
Ms. Owen has also seen an increase in demand for the vaccine. She administered 15 shots on Sunday, compared with two or three shots a day about a week ago.
ProMedica officials said the flu vaccine is also available at the three locations of the Pharmacy Counter store on Byrne Road, Central Avenue, and Navarre Avenue, and at the ProMedica after-hours clinic in Perrysburg.
UTMC hospital and its clinics also continue to have the flu vaccine.
Contact Marlene Harris-Taylor Marlene Harris-Taylor at: firstname.lastname@example.org or 419-724-6091.