First Indiana flu-related death of the season reported by health department

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INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. – Indiana health officials reported the first flu-related death of the season for the state Friday.

The Indiana State Department of Health says the victim was 65 years or older, but did not indicate which county the death occurred in.

According to the CDC, it takes about two weeks to develop the antibodies that protect you against the flu. The agency recommends that you get a flu shot by the end of October, but you should still consider getting one if you haven't.

“We don’t typically see flu-related deaths this early in the season, but flu viruses circulate year-round and can have heartbreaking consequences at any time,” said Indiana State Health Commissioner Kris Box, M.D., FACOG. “With influenza activity beginning to increase, I encourage anyone who hasn’t gotten a flu shot to get one to help protect themselves and their loved ones.”

The 2017-2018 flu season was one of the deadliest in decades, killing more than 80,000 people. Flu season typically runs from October to May.

"Flu vaccines are lifesaving. They are. I see it every year. Most of my severe flu cases last year were in unvaccinated individuals and it's really sad when somebody has something life threatening that could've been prevented," said Dr. Chris Belcher, St. Vincent Infectious Disease Specialist.

High-risk individuals include pregnant women, young children (especially those too young to get vaccinated), people with chronic illnesses, people who are immunocompromised and the elderly. The health department says it is especially important for these individuals to be vaccinated each year.

People can help prevent the spread of flu by washing their hands frequently and thoroughly, avoiding touching their eyes, nose and mouth with their hands and staying home when sick. Officials say Hoosiers should practice the “Three Cs” to help prevent the spread of flu and other infectious diseases:

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

Dr. Belcher says people should also know the difference between the flu and a common cold.

"Influenza is high fever, headaches, dry cough, sore muscles and it can lead to problems like pneumonia and other various life threatening conditions," Belcher said.

For more about the flu from the CDC, click here.

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