State health officials are now reporting 27 deaths due to flu-related illness in Indiana. The overwhelming majority of the deaths, 24, involve individuals older than 65. By comparison, Indiana had no flu-related deaths during the 2011-2012 season and three deaths in the 2010-2011 flu season.
State health officials, in cooperation with local health departments, have reached out to long-term care facilities to advise on the seriousness of influenza and provide recommendations for reducing its spread and encouraging the facilities to offer the vaccine to residents and staff.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is now reporting that flu deaths have reached epidemic levels, which simply means the nation is experiencing a higher number of flu-related deaths than was expected.
“We are experiencing a more severe season than in recent years. However, it’s important to recognize that flu is unpredictable and we have been through this before,” said State Health Commissioner William VanNess II, M.D. “Everyone older than six months should be vaccinated as a first line of defense. Frequent hand washing, covering your cough, and staying home if you’re not feeling well will also help protect you and keep the flu from spreading.”
No shortage of flu vaccine is being reported, but health officials say there are reports of some locations temporarily depleting their supply due to the current high demand. A flu vaccine locator can be found at www.StateHealth.in.gov. Flu vaccine can usually be found at local health departments, pharmacies, and health care providers.
In a report last week, the CDC said the 2012-2013 influenza vaccine was about 62 percent effective. This season’s vaccine offers protection against the three most common strains of influenza – H3N2, H1N1 and Influenza B. The H3N2 strain appears to be predominant thus far in the 2012-2013 flu season. Health officials stress that the flu vaccine is the best protection against the illness.
Flu vaccination is recommended for anyone six months of age or older. It is especially important for those at higher risk of complications related to the flu to get vaccinated. High risk individuals include pregnant women, young children, people with chronic illnesses and/or compromised immune systems and the elderly.
Symptoms of influenza include high fever, headache, fatigue, cough, muscle aches and sore throat. Health officials encourage anyone experiencing these symptoms to contact their health care provider.
Thorough and frequent hand washing, covering coughs with a tissue or sleeve and staying home when sick can all help reduce the spread of the flu.