Flu deaths rise, strain striking middle-aged and young adults

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INDIANAPOLIS – The number of flu-related deaths in Indiana keeps rising and state health officials have noticed the majority of deaths or severe illness has occurred in the middle-aged to young adult group.

Generally, most influenza associated deaths happen among the very young or the elderly, but not this year.

The Indiana State Department of Health reports, 37 Hoosiers have died from the flu this season and 23 of those people were between 25 and 64 years old.

One reason, health officials said, could be that folks just aren’t getting vaccinated. However, another theory is that some of these victims never had a chance to build up a stronger immunity to this particular strain.

“The first time you’ve been infected with an influenza virus you have an increased immunity to that specific strain,” explained Shawn Richards, a Respiratory Epidemiologist at the ISDH.

However, she added, those born between 1957 and 1977 never experienced this virus the first time and never gained that increased immunity.

“There wasn’t the opportunity for you to be infected the first time with H1N1,” said Richards. “So you were probably infected, or you were infected with an H2 or H3 virus, not an H1 virus.”

The prominent strain of flu circulating right now is H1N1. Richards said health officials saw a similar trend in 2009 when that was also the main strain.

Richards urged all Hoosiers to get vaccinated and practice common sense when it comes to going out in public or back to work after getting sick. Many people believe they are no longer contagious when they take medicine to suppress their fever, but they could still be exposing others.