INDIANAPOLIS — State health officials are now reporting 27 deaths due to flu-related illness in Indiana. The overwhelming majority of the deaths, 24, have occurred in individuals older than 65 years. By comparison, Indiana had no flu-related deaths during the 2011/12 season and three deaths in the 2010/11 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 6 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.”
Health officials say two of the deaths occurred in individuals younger than 18 years of age.
No official shortages of the influenza vaccine have been reported, state health officials say; however, it may be more difficult to find the vaccine due to the current high demand. A flu vaccine locator can be found at www.Flu.gov . Flu vaccine can typically be found at local health departments, pharmacies and with health care providers.
The 2012/13 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 2012/13 flu season.
Flu vaccination is recommended for anyone 6 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.
Some other tips to help protect against the spread of influenza include:
• Clean: Properly wash your hands frequently with warm, soapy water.
• Cover: Cover your cough and sneeze with your arm or a disposable tissue.
• Contain: Stay home from school/work when you are sick to keep your germs from spreading.
Health officials advise to contact your health care provider if you experience the following influenza symptoms, whether or not you have been vaccinated:
• Fever of 100 degrees Fahrenheit or greater
• Muscle aches
• Sore throat
For more information about Indiana’s 2012-2013 influenza season, visit the Indiana State Department of Health at www.StateHealth.in.gov .