The number of influenza-related deaths in Indiana this season has now reached 11. “St. Joseph County has been hit particularly hard, experiencing six deaths,” reported Kenneth Severson, Indiana State Department of Health spokesman.
No other Indiana county has reported more than one death. Health officials do not report counties with less than five deaths to respect the privacy of the victims and their families. In a change from last year’s flu season fatalities, officials say that all but one of the deaths occurred in individuals between the ages of 25-64.
“Hoosiers cannot become complacent when it comes to the flu,” said state health Commissioner William VanNess, M.D. “I strongly recommend all Hoosiers get vaccinated if you haven’t done so yet. Flu is very unpredictable.”
There are two vaccine combinations available for the 2013-14 flu season. The trivalent vaccine offers protection against the three most common strains of influenza: H3N2, H1N1 and one type of influenza B. A new quadrivalent vaccine was released this year and includes a second influenza B strain. The H1N1 strain appears to be predominant so far this season, according to Severson.
Flu vaccine can typically be found at local health departments, pharmacies and health care providers. A flu vaccine locator tool can be found on the ISDH Web site at www.StateHealth.in.gov.
State health officials also encourage influenza vaccination of health care workers, and household contacts and caregivers of children less than 6 months of age, as well as household contacts of people at high risk for flu complications.
Hoosiers should practice the “Three Cs” to help prevent the spread of flu and other infectious diseases:
• Clean: Properly wash hands frequently with warm, soapy water
• Cover: Cover your cough and sneeze into your arm or a disposable tissue
• Contain: Stay home from school/work when you are sick to keep your germs from spreading.
Persons should contact a health care provider if they experience these flu symptoms, even if they were vaccinated: fever of 100 degrees or greater, headache, fatigue, cough, muscle aches or sore throat.