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 vaccines to residents and staff.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention 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.”
No shortage of flu vaccine is being reported, but 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 with health care providers.
In a report last week, the CDC said the 2012-13 influenza vaccine was about 62 percent effective. This season’s vaccine offers protection against the three most common strains: H3N2, H1N1 and Influenza B. The H3N2 strain appears to be predominant so far. Experts stress that the vaccine is the best protection against the illness.
It is especially important for those at higher risk of complications 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.