Indiana health officials prepare for more deaths from flu-related illnesses

INDIANAPOLIS, Ind.-- After more than two dozen Hoosiers died from flu-related deaths, the Indiana State Department of Health is preparing to see an even bigger spike in fatal flu cases.

“We should expect and do expect to see more,” said Indiana State Department of Health outreach coordinator Shawn Richards.

Within just one week, 16 Hoosiers died of flu-related deaths. By the end of this week, that number is expected to spike again. State health officials say 25 people have died from flu-related illness so far this season.

“Once the flu hits a certain level it takes a hold of the community and people start passing it back,” said Richards.

State health officials say flu activity is widespread across Indiana.

“We do not expect there to be several weeks left of flu season and continued death and severe illness,” said Richards.

The increase in flu-related illness has led to an overflow at local emergency rooms where some hospitals continue to use temporary visitor restrictions. St. Vincent hospital says it is already on track to have more than twice as many flu cases this month than last, leading to an overflow of patients.

“Influenzas is different than some of the other viruses because it changes every year,” said Richards.

Each year, the flu virus morphs and affects a different number of people in a different pattern.

Experts say this season's 25 fatal flu cases comes after just two flu-related deaths at this point last year.

“It started early and it shows up relatively fast,” said Richards.

Some studies say the flu vaccination this year has not been effective but officials tell us the health department will not know the efficacy of the vaccine for several months.