State health officials confirm first flu-related death of the season

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Flu season hits Indiana hard; 19 related deaths

INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. (Dec. 8, 2014)– State health officials announced the first influenza-related death of the season Monday.

The individual was over 65 years old and was not vaccinated.

“Tragically, we reported our first flu-related death today and we fully expect there will be more,” said State Health Commissioner Jerome Adams, M.D., M.P.H., “That’s why taking steps to protect you and your family are so important.”

Dec. 7 through 13 is National Influenza Vaccination Week and State health officials want Hoosiers to be prepared for what could be a severe flu season.

Last week, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported that H3N2 flu viruses have been the most common so far this flu season. Historically, during seasons where H3N2 viruses are dominant, more hospitalizations and deaths have been reported.

Adding to health officials’ concerns is the finding that roughly half of the H3N2 viruses analyzed last month by CDC, were found to be “drift variants,” which means they have genetic changes that make them different from the one used for this season’s flu vaccine.

“Influenza is always unpredictable, but indications are that this season could be severe, so Hoosiers should be prepared,” said Dr. Adams.  “Although the vaccine’s ability to protect against the H3N2 strain of flu this season may not be as high as we would like, the vaccine will protect against other strains of circulating flu virus, and those who get vaccinated may have a milder case if flu of they do get it.”

Dr. Adams advises taking all steps necessary to protect you and your family from getting the flu, including:

  • Get vaccinated: the influenza vaccine is the single best way to protect against flu.
  • See a health care provider: influenza antiviral drugs can reduce the severity and length of flu if taken within 48 hours of showing symptoms. High risk individuals should seek treatment as soon as possible after symptoms develop.  High risk individuals include children under the age of two, pregnant women, adults over the age of 65, and any individuals with chronic medical conditions such as diabetes, heart disease, or chronic respiratory disease.
  • Prevent spread: wash your hands frequently, cover your cough and stay home from work and school when you are sick.

All individuals over 6 months of age are recommended to get vaccinated. State health officials also encourage influenza vaccination of health care workers, and 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.