CLEVELAND -- The Ohio Department of Health is reporting a spike in the number of people hospitalized with influenza this year compared to last year.
Department spokeswoman Shannon Libby says it's early to see this much flu activity, with cases typically going up in January or February.
According to ODH influenza reports, 65 Ohioans were hospitalized with the influenza virus from October to late December 2011. In that same period this year, the number skyrocketed to 867.
"Influenza tends to be unpredictable some of the years," said Dr. Jeffrey Luk, M.D., Director of Emergency Transport, from University Hospitals Case Medical Center.
There may be various reasons for the early spike. Every year, doctors anticipate what the next season's flu strains will be, in order to manufacture the flu vaccine. But even their educated guess, sometimes misses the mark.
"There might be a more severe strain out there that we just don't know yet, " said Dr. Luk.
So what's a person to do?
While you might think the virus travels best by touch, consider this: One sneeze can produce 40-thousand droplets of mucus. Just one of the droplets may be enough to cause an infection.
"Preventative measures are still the most important thing an individual can do to prevent from getting the flu," said Dr. Luk.
So cover those coughs and sneezes, wash hands, and use hand sanitizers to decrease your risk.
And get the flu shot, say doctors. It takes several weeks after the vaccination for the protection to take effect, but we're only halfway through the flu season, according to Dr. Luk.
"It's not too late. Go get it," he said.