MARSHALL CO. — The Centers for Disease Control reported Thursday that flu deaths in Indiana are now at epidemic levels.
The Indiana State Department of Health stated in a press release that 27 people have died of the flu this season. By comparison, in 2011-12 there were no flu deaths and just three deaths in the 2010-11 season.
“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 in a statement.
Saint Joseph Regional Medical Center — Plymouth has treated 63 people with the flu since the middle of November and 129 people at the hospital’s Mishawaka campus according to SJRMC spokesperson Amy Ponzillo.
Ponzillo said that these numbers are higher than usual.
Walgreens and CVS pharmacies in Plymouth both reported that they recently ran out of the flu shot.
“We ran out (Wednesday),” said Walgreens store manager Rob Mohnacky. “We do have more on the way, but I haven’t been giving out the estimated time of arrival.”
Mohnacky said that the Walgreens pharmacy has seen about a 25 percent increase in people getting the flu shot this year.
Heather Lohse at the CVS pharmacy said that the store just received more of the flu vaccine Wednesday, after running out last week.
“We’ve had quite a spike (in vaccine-takers), a lot of it is because the news is putting a big emphasis on how bad the flu is (this season),” said Lohse.
Lohse noted that CVS can give the flu shot to anyone age 18 or older.
Walgreens can vaccinate anyone over the age of 9.
One of the topics on the table at Tuesday night’s Marshall County Board of Health meeting was local flu cases.
County health officer Dr. Byron Holm commented, “From a personal standpoint in urgent care we saw a lot of cases during Christmas vacation. I think the cases are fewer now. In Southern Indiana, they are really getting hit hard — it impacted them more. We are expecting another wave (of the flu) in mid-February.”
Health Department nurse Susan Lechlitner said that there is no shortage of the flu vaccine in her department, but board member and local physician Dr. Craig Miller reported that his office has been out of the vaccine for about a month.
Health officials continue to stress that the flu vaccine is the best protection against flu. The CDC has said that the 2012-13 influenza vaccine is about 62 percent effective and offers protection from H3N2, H1N1, and Influenza B.
State health officials also noted that the majority of this season’s flu-related deaths — 24 — have been individuals over 65 years old.
Those at high risk of complications related to the flu include the elderly, people with chronic illnesses and/or compromised immune systems, young children, and pregnant women.
A flu vaccine locator can be found at www.StateHealth.in.gov .