Flu exposure on rise in Mahoning Valley

Mercy Health put into place visitor restrictions to prevent the spread of the flu virus

Cases of flue have decreased in Mahoning County

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WKBN) – Flu activity is on the rise across the country, and one local school was closed Friday due to the illness.

St. Joseph the Provider was closed because several teachers and students had the influenza virus. Several hospitals, including Mercy Health, have put into place visitor restrictions to help prevent the spread of the virus.

Flu season got off to a slow start this year, but doctors report an increase in cases across the country and here locally. Even though the start of spring is just days away, experts expect the flu activity to continue for several weeks.

Mercy Health said its restrictions were put into place to keep their patients safe.

“If you are ill and wanting to visit someone in the hospital, we are asking that you email them, phone, send them a card. I think that they would understand,” said Dr. Nick Kreatsoulas, chief medical officer at Mercy Health.

Among the restrictions, visitors under the age of 14 will not be permitted to visit until the end of flu season.

“They get exposed to a lot of things, day care, school… so that’s part of the reason why we ask under the age of 14,” Kreatsoulas said.

Dr. Kreatsoulas said the mild winter likely played a part in the slow start of flu season, but the flu shot also plays a big part.

“It could possibly be due to a lot of immunizations prior, where people get immunized and the virus just can’t take hold in the general population until later in the year,” he said.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said this season’s vaccine is nearly 60 percent effective against the viruses.

There are simple things that you can do to prevent the spread of flu, including frequently washing your hands with soap and water. If you’re sick, stay at home and cover your cough and sneeze.

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