Coronavirus concerns Ashtabula County health officials; flu still bigger threat | Local News

Ashtabula County Health Department nurse April Tredway displays how a flu shot is drawn on Friday afternoon in Jefferson.

Ashtabula County Health Department nurse April Tredway displays how a flu shot is drawn on Friday afternoon in Jefferson.

JEFFERSON — It’s a fear every traveler experiences — getting sick on vacation. Some people faithfully wash their hands, use antibacterial lotion and even wear surgical masks to try to fend off illness.

This winter and spring, vacationers should take every precaution because there have been reports of thousands of people infected with a new virus originating in China, where most of the afflicted live. The coronavirus has turned into an outbreak and spread to more than a dozen countries in less than a month. A global emergency was declared Thursday.

“The Ohio Department of Health is having us put out information comparing the symptoms of flu and coronavirus,” said Christine Kettunen, nursing director for the county’s Health Department. “There are currently no cases or suspected cases of coronavirus in Ashtabula County. However, we need to be prepared.”

She said there is serious concern since the virus’ symptoms resemble those of the flu: runny nose, fever, coughs, headaches, shortness of breath, chills and body aches. There is no vaccine for protection. Patients are treated with pain and fever medicine, and advised to rest.

Throughout January, outpatient clinics, doctor’s offices and emergency rooms have been bombarded with people with flu-like symptoms and four people — three adults and one child — have been hospitalized at Ashtabula County Medical Center, said Christine Kettunen, nursing director for the county’s Health Department.

“They have all recovered and gone home,” she said. “We have had several reports of schools seeing kids and staff out with flu and outpatient offices say they are seeing lots of individuals with flu. The schools have not reached a level where they are calling for advice on possible closings.”

“The good news is it’s not too late to get a flu shot,” Kettunen said. “It takes about 10 days for the antibodies to build up, but it’s not too late.”

Flu cases spiked to more than 15 million nationwide over the past week, according to the Center for Disease Control and Ohio Department of Health data.  A 16-year-old girl from Cuyahoga County was the first pediatric flu death of the 2019-2020 flu season in Ohio.

Influenza B, which tends to affect young people more, continues to dominate the cases seen at Ashtabula County Medical Center Express Care sites, said Tina Stasiewski, vice president of business development at ACMC.

Dr. Farah S. Iftikhar, an Ashtabula family physician at Prospect Urgent Care, said she’s also seeing many patients with Influenza B.

Complications from the virus can lead to ear infections, pneumonia, muscle inflammation, sinus infections or worsening of chronic medical conditions such as asthma, diabetes or heart failure.

People at greater risk for these complications include adults over the age of 50, pregnant women, children younger than age 5, anyone with certain chronic medical conditions (such as diabetes or asthma) and people living in nursing homes or long-term care facilities.

The flu virus spreads when someone touches a surface contaminated by the virus. It can then transfer into the body when they touch the mucus membranes of their eyes, mouth or nose.

Flu symptoms usually run their course in 10 days, but feelings of lethargy or congestion can last weeks, according to the CDC.

People can slow the spread of the disease with a few common-sense hygiene precautions, including washing their hands, cover coughs, avoiding touching eyes, nose and mouth and staying home when ill, according to the Ohio Department of Health.

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ASHTABULA [ndash] Rebecca Maria Settles, 34, died June 14, 2020. Mother of Topanga, Haleigh, Raymond, Javier, and Julianna; grandmother to Emmlianna. Private services will be announced. Donations may be made to the family. Full obituary at

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Post time: Jun-18-2020
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