The flu season has taken a dramatic turn, resulting in two deaths from the H1N1 strain of the virus in Lucas County during the last two weeks.
Toledo-Lucas County Health Department officials said Toledo resident Connie Bucklew, 62, died Tuesday and a 50-year-old Temperance man died Dec. 28. Both were in Toledo Hospital. Ms. Bucklew was semiretired after working more than 30 years in the insurance industry.
Jim Bucklew said his wife, Connie, passed away suddenly. Right after New Year’s Day, she began to feel sick.
“She said stay away from me I’m getting a cold,” he said.
By the weekend she was very ill and it got worse each day. “The weekend the storm really hit and I was thinking, ‘How am I going to get her to the hospital?’ ” Mr. Bucklew said.
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On Monday, the family became worried and rushed her to Toledo Hospital’s emergency room.
Her husband said she did not get a flu shot this year.
“She didn’t get one this year. She had one last year, but never got around to it this year,” Mr. Bucklew said.
Mr. Bucklew said the doctors performed numerous tests and finally told the family that she was suffering from the H1N1 flu virus. She was transferred to intensive care where she died a few hours later.
“She was an angel, everybody loved her, and life was a ball with her,” he said.
The man who died was not identified by health officials. These are the first deaths from flu-related illness in the area in at least two years, said Dr. David Grossman, health commissioner for the Toledo-Lucas County Health Department.
Local hospital officials also indicated that they have patients who are very sick at both Toledo Hospital and at Mercy St. Vincent Medical Center, and that more deaths could result, Dr. Grossman 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 Bernarski.
When asked, officials at Toledo Hospital declined to give information on the number of patients with flulike symptoms in the hospital’s intensive care unit.
Since Dec. 1 at Toledo Hospital, there have been 39 people admitted who have tested positive for flu. Out of that group, 24 patients were admitted in December and 15 in January, said Dr. Uma Savanoor, a family practice physician at Toledo Hospital.
Dr. Grossman said not only are hospital admissions on the rise from the virus, but hospital emergency rooms also are being inundated by people with flulike symptoms. As people return to work and school now that the holiday season has ended and the brutally cold weather has subsided, those numbers could increase, he said.
He said the flu strain that is most prevalent this year is H1N1 and it appears to be affecting a wide swath of people regardless of age.
The H1N1 strain of the flu virus caused particular concern when it first appeared in 2009. It was considered a pandemic by health officials because of the number of children and young adults who were affected.
Since then, H1N1 protection has been incorporated into the flu vaccine every year.
“We have the best vaccine we could for this but it’s not going to be 100 percent effective,” Dr. Grossman said, adding that the influenza virus has the ability to mix and create its own characteristics and that appears to be what’s going on this year.
According to Ohio Health Department officials, influenza activity is now widespread across the state with the highest number of flu-related hospitalizations in northeast and east central Ohio. So far this season — which runs from October to the spring — there have been 833 flu-related hospitalizations across the state.
“Because the flu virus is now widespread throughout Ohio, immunization is all the more essential,” said Dr. Ted Wymyslo, Ohio Health Department director. “Immunization is the safest and most effective way to fight the flu, so I encourage all Ohioans who have not already done so to get vaccinated today.”
The flu is an illness that comes on abruptly with fever and chills, muscle aches, and a severe cough and shortness of breath, but there are simple things that people can do, such as washing hands and covering the mouth when coughing that will probably reduce the spread of the disease, said Dr. Grossman.
The Lucas County Health Department, 635 N. Erie St., will hold two walk-in flu clinics next week: Wednesday from 4 to 6 p.m., and Jan. 18, from 9 a.m.to 1 p.m. The cost of the adult flu vaccine is $30.
Contact Marlene Harris-Taylor at: firstname.lastname@example.org or 419-724-6091.