Hoosiers concerned as H1N1 returns, flu numbers rise quickly

INDIANAPOLIS – There is growing concern about the flu spreading after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported widespread cases in the country and in our state.

The Franciscan Visiting Nurse Service hosted public clinics where people received the flu shot from September to mid-December. After that, they issued flu shots by appointment. But because of the reported number of cases, plus an increase of people interested to get the shot, the public clinic reopened.

“With the numbers being low on the flu shots this year that people just didn’t take the time to get it done, (we decided) we needed to offer another clinic to give people the time ‘cause there’s still time to get your shot. You can still be protected against the high part of the season,” Heather Hughet with Franciscan Visiting Nurse Service said.

Jesse Beer, 26, visited the public clinic on Tuesday. He did not want to take any chances getting the flu two times in a row.

“Last year, I was out for about a week with awful stomach (pain), flu, and fever. So, I’m hoping this year that’ll prevent me from getting that,” Beer said.

He encouraged people to get the vaccine.

“I would encourage people especially with how frequently (and) closely we work (with) other people,” Beer said.

Marion County Health officials want to spread the message too that people still have time to get the flu shot.

Melissa McMaster, Nurse & Coordinator of the Marion County Public Health Department Immunization and Infectious Disease Program, said the H1N1 strain is a concern this year.

“The difference this year is the H1N1 strain tends to be (the) predominate strain that infects people,” McMaster said.

She referred to the H1N1 impacting children and middle-aged adults.

“(We’re) concerned because the H1N1 strain can cause significant illness and lead to hospitalization and even at times death. It’s not a strain to mess around with,” McMaster said.

Health officials reported, this season, 3 people died from the flu in our state. None of those cases were in Marion County.

“There’s no way to predict how long the season will last that’s why we tell people it’s not too late to get the vaccine,” McMasters said.

Health officials remind people to follow a few steps to protect themselves from the flu. People should always remember to cover their mouth when they cough, wash their hands frequently, and to call in sick, if they do not feel well.