Health officials say worst flu season in a decade may have peaked

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INDIANAPOLIS – State health officials say they’re seeing signs that the worst flu season in a decade may have peaked.

As of Monday morning, 44 Hoosiers had died from influenza this season. That’s just a slight increase from a couple weeks ago, which could mean the season is slowing down.

“One death is still too many,” said state epidemiologist Pam Pontones. “But we’re glad that the numbers are appearing to slow down.”

While fewer Hoosiers are dying from the flu, the Indiana State Department of Health still wants to see if fewer Hoosiers are actually catching it.

That should become clearer when they receive patient visit data from hospitals across the state on Wednesday. Indianapolis hospitals seem to be seeing a slowdown.

The Marion County Public Health Department says 4 percent of all hospital visits were due to flu-like symptoms last week. That was down from 5 percent the week before.

State health officials want to see that number dip even more in all 92 counties.

“We’d like to see that number go below 3 percent, 2 percent,” Pontones said. “So we still may have a little way to go.”

Immunization officials at Visiting Nurse Service at Saint Francis, Inc., said they’ve seen a drop in the number of people calling for flu shots. That could indicate that most people who plan to get a shot have already gotten one.

Indiana is still among more than 40 states seeing “widespread” flu activity, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. That means more than half of Indiana counties are seeing a lot of the virus.

If data shows the season has already peaked, it would be slightly earlier than average for an Indiana flu season.

Even if the season has peaked, health officials said that doesn’t mean Hoosiers should let down their guard on things like hand washing and sneezing into your sleeve.

Flu season can last well into March even after the peak of the season.

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