Indiana health officials are reporting that influenza is hitting the Hoosier States particularly hard halfway through the 2014-2015 seasonal flu season.  State health officials are urging the public to take steps to protect themselves and loved ones from influenza. Eighty-five deaths associated with flu have now been reported in the state. That’s higher than the total deaths in each of the previous 10 years, they note.

Indiana counties/Cool10191
Indiana counties/Cool10191

“Indiana, like most of the country, is continuing to experience high flu activity,” said State Health Commissioner Jerome Adams, M.D., MPH. “This is clearly a severe flu season. Because of that, it’s especially important to see a health care provider right away if you have flu symptoms. If it is flu, starting early on antiviral medications can help reduce the severity and length of illness.”

Influenza or the “flu” is a viral infection of the respiratory tract. Influenza is spread by respiratory droplets from close contact with infected persons or contact with contaminated surfaces or objects. Infection can occur when influenza viruses contact the eyes, mouth or nose, and possibly through inhaling droplets from a sneeze or cough. Sometimes people may become infected by touching surfaces or objects contaminated with influenza viruses and then touching their eyes, mouth or nose.

Although anyone can get the flu, some people are at higher risk of complications related to the flu, sometimes leading to hospitalization and even death. High risk individuals include pregnant women, young children (especially those younger than two years), people older than 65, and people with chronic illnesses and/or compromised immune systems.

“Our older population is being hit hard this year by flu,” said Dr. Adams. “We’ve seen the most deaths in Hoosiers 65 and older. Tragically, we must also report that there has been a pediatric flu-related death this week. We each have a responsibility to do our part to keep ourselves, our loved ones and our communities healthy—get vaccinated, wash your hands frequently, cover your cough and stay home and call your doctor if you’re sick.”