The Indiana State Department of Health (ISDH) is reminding Hoosiers that influenza activity continues to be high and widespread across Indiana and is urging people to take precautions against the illness, which has claimed 167 Indiana lives so far this flu season.
According to ISDH’s weekly influenza report, emergency departments and outpatient providers continue to see increased visits from individuals with flu-like illness. Flu outbreaks also have increased in schools and long-term care facilities.
“This is a severe flu season, and unfortunately there are no signs that it has peaked yet,” said State Health Commissioner Kris Box, MD, FACOG. “Hoosiers should do everything they can to protect themselves and their families, including getting a flu vaccine and staying home if they’re sick.”
Children, the elderly, pregnant women and people whose immune systems are compromised are especially susceptible to the flu. Although the majority of flu-related deaths in Indiana have occurred in individuals age 65 and older, nearly 83 percent of the influenza-like illnesses reported to ISDH this year involve individuals age 24 and younger.
“Unfortunately, flu can spread rapidly in communal settings like classrooms and nursing homes, but no one is immune from the flu,” Dr. Box said. “Facilities that are experiencing high rates of flu should ensure that they are cleaning and disinfecting regularly and that ill individuals are isolated to help prevent additional cases of the flu.”
Influenza is a viral infection of the respiratory tract and is spread by droplets released when infected people cough or sneeze nearby or when people touch surfaces or objects contaminated with those infectious respiratory droplets. People can also become infected by touching surfaces or objects contaminated with influenza viruses and then touching their eyes, mouth or nose. Common symptoms include a fever of 100° Fahrenheit, headache, fatigue, cough, muscle aches, sore throat and runny or stuffy nose.
Individuals who are experiencing flu-like symptoms are urged to contact their physician or visit an urgent care facility to keep emergency rooms available for people who are critically ill. Patients whose symptoms began within 48 hours are encouraged to ask their provider whether an antiviral medication such as Tamiflu is appropriate.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that everyone age 6 months and older get a flu vaccine each year. The vaccine takes about two weeks to be fully effective. While the CDC has said this year’s vaccine is not as effective as hoped for the H3N2 virus, the vaccine still offers protection against other flu strains that are circulating and can reduce the severity of illness in individuals who contract the flu.