Story Summary

Flu Season

flu genericThe flu season has started earlier, and cases are more severe than last year, health officials said.

The CDC recommends everyone six months old and older get vaccinated. If you haven’t gotten an annual flu vaccine, it’s not too late, doctors say. To further protect yourself, try to avoid anyone who is sneezing and coughing, and wash your hands.

Some other tips to help protect against the spread of influenza include:

-Clean. Properly wash your hands frequently with warm, soapy water.
-Cover. Cover your cough and sneeze with your arm or a disposable tissue.
-Contain. Stay home from school/work when you are sick to keep your germs from spreading.

Health officials advise to contact your health care provider if you experience the following influenza symptoms, whether or not you have been vaccinated:

-Fever of 100 degrees Fahrenheit or greater
-Headache
-Fatigue
-Cough
-Muscle aches
-Sore throat

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INDIANAPOLIS (Jan. 31, 2014) – The latest report from the State Department of Health shows 30 people across Indiana have died from flu-related causes.

St. Joseph and Marion counties have both reached six flu deaths. The department doesn’t specify flu death totals for a county unless it reaches five deaths.

Of the deaths so far this flu season, nine have been people ages 25-49, ten have come in the 50-64 range and 11 have been in the 65+ range.

Health officials said the predominant strain for this flu season is the H1N1 virus, and said there’s still time to get a flu vaccine. The department recommends that anyone six months or older get vaccinated. High-risk Hoosiers like pregnant women, children, people with chronic illnesses and the elderly are highly encouraged to get a flu shot.

The flu vaccine is available at your health care provider office, your local pharmacy or your county health department. A flu vaccine locator tool can be found on the Indiana State Department of Health’s website at www.StateHealth.in.gov.

The flu vaccine will protect you from the flu, but it can’t give you the flu. The most common side effects are soreness, redness, tenderness or swelling where the shot was given. Rarely, you may have a headache, muscle aches or low-grade fever.

Practice the “Three Cs” to help prevent spread of flu and other infectious diseases:

  • Clean: Properly wash your hands frequently with warm, soapy water.
  • Cover: Cover your cough and sneeze with your arm or a disposable tissue.
  • Contain: Stay home from school/work when you are sick to keep your germs from spreading.

Contact a health care provider if you experience the following influenza symptoms, even if you have been vaccinated:

  • Fever of 100 degrees Fahrenheit or greater
  • Headache
  • Fatigue
  • Cough
  • Muscle aches
  • Sore throat

 

INDIANAPOLIS (Jan. 23, 2014) – The latest influenza report from the Indiana State Department of Health shows eight more Hoosiers have died from the flu.

The weekly report released said 19 people have died across Indiana. That’s up from last week, when the state reported 11 flu-related deaths.

Six of the eight deaths for the week ending Jan. 18 involved people 65 or older, according to the report.

Of the 19 total deaths, six were people ages 25-49, six were people 50-64 and seven were 65 or older.

According to state health officials, St. Joseph County is the only Indiana county with five or more flu-related deaths. The health department does not report counties with less than five deaths.

The report showed flu activity decreased from the previous week, but that may be attributed to snowy, cold conditions that have kept students out of school, limiting exposure the flu virus.

The department said young and middle-aged adults have been hit harder than normal during the flu season, which can last through April. Health officials encourage Hoosiers to get a flu shot. A flu vaccine locator tool can be found on the Indiana State Department of Health’s website.

Health officials also encourage people to practice the “Three Cs” to help prevent spread of flu and other infectious diseases:

  • Clean: Properly wash your hands frequently with warm, soapy water
  • Cover: Cover your cough and sneeze with your arm or a disposable tissue
  • Contain: Stay home from school/work when you are sick to keep your germs from spreading

Contact a health care provider if you experience the following influenza symptoms, even if you have been vaccinated:

  • Fever of 100 degrees Fahrenheit or greater
  • Headache
  • Fatigue
  • Cough
  • Muscle aches
  • Sore throat

INDIANAPOLIS (Jan. 17, 2014) – The Marion County Public Health Department announced its first flu-related death and will mandate temporary visitation restrictions at Indianapolis-area hospitals starting this week.

On Friday, the state health department said 11 people across the state had died of influenza-related causes.

In response, the Marion County Public Health Department said all hospitals and health networks in the Indianapolis Coalition for Patient Safety would implement Tier 1 of the Patient Visitation Policy, the least restrictive option that was developed in 2009 during the H1N1 outbreak. This is the third time for activating restrictions using this policy; Tier 1 was implemented Jan. 16- Feb.8, 2013, during last year’s flu season.

Riley Hospital for Children at IU Health began visitor restrictions on Monday, Jan. 20, as did Eskenazi Hospital. All other hospitals within IU Health, St. Vincent Health, Franciscan St. Francis Health, and Community Health Network, as well as the Roudebush V.A. Medical Center, will implement the policy beginning Wednesday, Jan. 22.

The Tier 1 option of the patient visitation policy has the following restrictions:

  • No visitors with influenza-like illnesses fever or cough.
  • No visitors under the age of 18 – unless special arrangements are made.
  • No visitors allowed beyond immediate family, partner or significant other.

Visitors should call the hospital before arriving if they have any questions about the restrictions. The restrictions will remain in place until they’re no longer needed. That decision will be based on regular assessments of Marion County flu data and the risk for potential exposure to patients.

For the week of Jan. 5-11, Marion County reports that 2.32 percent of all hospital emergency department visits countywide were for influenza-like illness (ILI). While this rate is lower than the 3.9 percent ILI reported during the same week last year, the recent increase in flu activity combined with the first flu-related death of the season is a cause for concern. Flu activity peaked at 5.09 percent of ILI in Marion County last season.

Currently, Indiana is in the “widespread” flu category as monitored by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. According to the Indiana State Department of Health for the week ending Jan. 11, the statewide ILI rate from hospital emergency departments was 3.39 percent.

Marion County health officials also recommended that residents get flu shots, saying it’s not too late to get one.

INDIANAPOLIS (Jan. 17, 2014) – Eleven people have died from the flu, according to state health officials.

St. Joseph County has been hit particularly hard by the current flu season, with six deaths reported there. According to the Indiana State Department of Health, no other Indiana county has reported more than one flu-related death. The department does not report counties with less than five deaths. All but one death involved an individual between the ages of 25 and 64.

State health officials said there are two types of vaccines available for the flu season. One protects against the three most common strains: H3N2, H1N1 and one type of Influenza B. Another vaccine provides protection against those flu strains and a second Influenza B strain. So far, the H1N1 strain appears to be the dominant one.

A flu vaccine locator tool can be found on the Indiana State Department of Health’s website at www.StateHealth.in.gov.

State health officials also encourage flu vaccinations for health care workers, household contacts and caregivers of children less than 6 months of age, as well as household contacts of people at high risk for flu complications.

The department said young and middle-aged adults have been hit harder than normal during the flu season, which can last through April.

Practice the “Three Cs” to help prevent spread of flu and other infectious diseases:

  • Clean: Properly wash your hands frequently with warm, soapy water
  • Cover: Cover your cough and sneeze with your arm or a disposable tissue
  • Contain: Stay home from school/work when you are sick to keep your germs from spreading

Contact a health care provider if you experience the following influenza symptoms, even if you have been vaccinated:

  • Fever of 100 degrees Fahrenheit or greater
  • Headache
  • Fatigue
  • Cough
  • Muscle aches
  • Sore throat

By Lindy Thackston

The weather doesn’t scream flu season right now, but it is here. In Marion County, the flu season can last from now through late April.

The first Marion County Public Health Department Flu Shot Clinic of the season opened Thursday morning to a steady stream of Hoosiers.

For Gregory Schmitt and his wife, it was date morning at the Flu Shot Clinic! They’re celebrating 50 years together. They’d like several more and say that’s why they got in line on the first day.

“(If I don’t get one) it could make me sick and maybe I’d make other people sick and really it could bring on death because I’m past the 70-year-old bracket,” said Schmitt.

And that was the age group hit hard last year. The one year Schmitt couldn’t get his shot.

“I was well until last year and then all of a sudden when it hits you, you just go down so fast.”

The shot is for anyone 6 months and older.

Derrick Luckett from Indianapolis doesn’t mind the needle, saying, “Back in the 80s I had the flu once and it’s not a good feeling!”

Luckett swears by the shot and gets it every year, but he understands not everyone agrees.

He says he’s thankful for the low cost offered by the Marion County Health Department. Influenza vaccines are $15 for adults, $10 for children ages 2 to 18 and free for children under the age of 2. Pneumococcal (pneumonia) vaccines are $40 and tetanus (Td or Tdap) are $20. Medicare and Medicaid will be accepted.

“If the health department is doing it, why not take advantage of it?” asked Luckett.

Melissa McMasters is the coordinator of the Marion County Immunizations and Infectious Disease programs.

She said, “The strains change yearly and the vaccine is updated yearly and that’s why it’s important to get it every single year.”

And it’s important to get it early, she said. Despite the federal government shutdown, state health officials said there are no changes in influenza monitoring from the CDC.

“We don’t think the vaccine availability is going to be impacted by the government shutdown, but what will be impacted is flu surveillance,” said McMasters. “That means tracking influenza illness.”

The Indiana State Department of Health will continue to consult with the agency. If the federal shutdown drags on, there could conceivably be a change in outbreak monitoring.

There are six more Flu Shot Clinics scheduled. Community flu clinic locations are:

Thursday, Oct. 3
Cathedral Kitchen
1350 N. Pennsylvania St.
9-11 a.m.

Tuesday, Oct. 8
Southport United Methodist Church
1947 E. Southport Rd.
9 a.m.-Noon

Tuesday, Oct. 8
Old Bethel United Methodist Church
7995 E. 21st St.
9-11 a.m.

Tuesday, Oct. 15
Southport Presbyterian Church
7525 McFarland Blvd.
9 a.m.-Noon

Wednesday, Oct. 16
Jewish Community Center
6701 Hoover Rd.
3-6 p.m.

Wednesday, Oct. 23
Chin Community Center
2524 E. Stop 11 Rd.
9 a.m.-Noon

Flu shots are also available at the Marion County Public Health Department’s district health offices. To find out locations and hours, visit MCHD.com or call the Flu Hotline at 317-221-2121.

The Indiana State Department of Health reports two additional flu-related deaths in the state, bringing the total to 70 deaths.

Five of those deaths came in individuals under 18 years of age. Health department officials said 64 of the 70 deaths happened in cases in which the deceased had an underlying medical condition such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, diabetes, cardiac and renal diseases.

Flu season generally runs from October through May. Even though the flu season is nearing its end, health officials are still urging Hoosiers to follow good hygiene habits to prevent further spread.

“Although we are nearing the end of flu season, it’s not over yet and there’s still a very real risk of becoming ill with influenza,” said State Health Commissioner William VanNess, M.D. “Your best defense at this point is to continue to be diligent with hand washing. Severe flu seasons, such as this one, demonstrate the importance of getting vaccinated each and every year and as early in the season as possible.”

Flu symptoms include cough, fever, sore throat and body aches. Anyone experiencing symptoms should contact a doctor. Anyone over the age of 65 are more prone to potentially fatal flu complications and should seek treatment quickly, doctors said.

The State Health Department has issued a statement following the Centers for Control and Prevention’s ruling about the effectiveness of this season’s flu vaccine.

Last week he CDC ruled the vaccines are only 56 percent effective overall.  For those 65 and older, though, the vaccine has been only 9 percent effective.

“The new information about the effectiveness of this season’s flu vaccine might seem discouraging, but it’s important to note that getting the flu vaccine can significantly reduce hospitalizations and deaths, even if it doesn’t protect from flu in all cases,” the state health commissioner said in a statement Friday.

So far, 61 Hoosiers have died from flu-related complications.

The Centers for Disease Control released findings Friday that showed this flu season’s vaccination did not do a good job of protecting people, especially the elderly.

The CDC reports the vaccine was only 9 percent effective among patients 65 and older. It was 56 percent effective with the general population, which is slightly below average.

Indianapolis native Holly McGee found that out the hard way.

After suffering three heart attacks and two strokes, dying from the flu seemed far-fetched. That is until this year.

McGee said she got the flu shot in November of 2012, but by January of 2013 she got the flu and had to be hospitalized for eight days.

“I really felt I was going to die. It was horrible,” said McGee.

The State Department of Health reports 58 Hoosiers have died from the flu this year. Of those, 26 were vaccinated. There are a lot of explanations to the lack of effectiveness.

“Overall health, underlying conditions, sometimes people are exposed to flu before they get vaccinated,” said Pam Pontones, from the State Department of Health.

It could also be due to this year’s flu strain being more aggressive.

“There can be an influenza strain that produced a little bit more severe infection. That’s what we saw this year with the H3N2 strain,” said Pontones.

McGee said although she got sick after being vaccinated, she would get vaccinated again. She urged others to do the same.

“I know it’s crazy but I want to live,” said McGee. “If I have to go, I want to go with the big things. You know? I don’t want to go with the flu.”

The State Department of Health urges people to get the flu shot, despite these recent findings.

By Ashley Hayes

(CNN) — This year’s flu vaccine was less effective than officials previously thought, particularly for the elderly, said officials with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Officials have said the worst may be over and flu cases are declining. The 2012-13 flu season began in December, much earlier than usual, and was more severe than last year’s.

That particularly was true for those 65 or older, according to a CDC report Thursday. The vaccine was 9% effective in protecting people in that age group.

“One possible explanation for this is that some older people did not mount an effective immune response to the H3N2 component of this season’s vaccine,” the report said. “However, it’s not possible to say that for sure.”

An H3N2 flu strain has been the most dominant and has been especially hard on the elderly.

Among those over 65, 146 per 100,000 were hospitalized for the flu virus, compared with a rate of 30 per 100,000 last year, the CDC said.

Dr. Thomas Frieden, the CDC’s director, said this month in a congressional hearing that about twice as many elderly people have been hospitalized with flu symptoms than in recent years. That includes the 2007-08 and 2003-04 seasons, which also saw a predominant H3N2 strain.

“It seems that this year’s flu vaccine is not nearly as effective as we would like among people over the age of 65 for one particular strain of flu,” Frieden said Thursday. “That’s why early treatment is so important.”

Officials maintained, however, that those 65 and older should be vaccinated yearly, for reasons including that this population is at high risk of serious illness, hospitalization and death from the flu.

“This flu season has been worse than average and particularly severe for the elderly,” Frieden said. “Although it’s far from perfect, flu vaccination is by far the best tool we have to protect from the flu.”

Authorities earlier had said the flu vaccine was 62% effective for adults and children. In the Thursday report, the CDC revised that to 56%.

The new number, the agency said, is “not significantly different” and continues to fall within the confidence interval established earlier. But the lower number includes an additional three weeks of data and was adjusted for various factors, including age and race or ethnicity.

“Both estimates indicate moderate vaccine effectiveness in preventing outpatient medical visits due to circulating flu viruses in most of the population,” the report said.

In addition, while this year’s vaccine was considered a good match for the most common circulating flu viruses, it only provided 47% protection against H3N2, the main virus.

“We simply need a better vaccine against influenza, one that works better and lasts longer,” Frieden said. The Department of Health and Human Services as well as the private sector are working on such a project, he said.

In addition, less than half of school-age children — the population mainly responsible for spreading the flu virus — got the flu shot, experts said. The CDC recommends the vaccine for those 6 months of age and older.

According to the latest numbers released Friday by the CDC, “influenza activity remained elevated in the United States, but decreased in most areas.”

CNN’s Trisha Henry contributed to this report.

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Four additional Hoosiers have died from flu-related complications, the Indiana State Health Department announced Wednesday.

Health officials said flu deaths increased to 56. A majority of the flu-related deaths involved people who had underlying medical problems such as heart disease, diabetes or asthma. The department said two counties now have five or more deaths.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has been closely monitoring the flu season, which started earlier than usual and quickly became more severe. Several states, including Indiana, had flu outbreaks.

Symptoms of influenza include: high fever, headache, fatigue, cough, muscle aches and sore throat. Health officials encourage anyone experiencing these symptoms to contact their health care provider.

The CDC recommends everyone six months old and older get vaccinated. If you haven’t gotten an annual flu vaccine, it’s not too late, doctors say. To further protect yourself, try to avoid anyone who is sneezing and coughing, and wash your hands.

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