Central Ohio still is in the throes of an extended influenza season, with more people being hospitalized after contracting the illness.
Columbus Public Health reports that as of Dec. 29, 257 people were admitted to local hospitals with flu-like symptoms, up from just five the previous year.
The highest in recent years was in the 2010-11 season, with 450 admissions, attributed in part to the H1N1 virus.
"What is concerning about this is that if you're hospitalized for influenza, obviously you're having serious complications and those can be life-threatening," said Jose Rodriguez, spokesman for the health agency.
And the worst could be yet to come because the peak of the flu season usually begins at the end of January. Local health officials continue to stress infection control: vaccinations, washing your hands, staying home when sick and covering your mouth when coughing or sneezing.
"The vaccine is a good match for the illness that we're seeing," Rodriguez said.
However, it is not 100-percent effective, although it can minimize symptoms for those who are infected, he said.
There are plenty of vaccines available and at inexpensive prices, he said. And anyone over the age of 6 months should get it, not only to protect themselves but others, said Dr. Julie Mangino, professor in infectious diseases at the Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center.
"One of things that's important to know and why it's so important to get the vaccine through March 3, is that potentially by getting the flu shot, you may prevent severe disease," Mangino said. "We still have to worry about the elderly, the pregnant, the immune-compromised."
Many states, including Ohio, experienced an earlier-than-normal flu season this year, she said.
"I would say normally the biggest month for admission to the hospital nationally is January and we've seen a good number of increases in December," Mangino said. "And I would say that is what's most different."
Aside from popular myth, people cannot get the flu from the shot, she said.
"Some people get a headache, some get a mild temperature elevation and some get a sore arm," she said. "And those are all signs that the vaccine is taking effect."