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Flu outbreaks dot Indiana, 22 other states; no surge in Fort Wayne

Some of Indiana’s hospitals are reporting sharp increases in flu cases as the state heads into what’s typically the peak months for the illness.

The Centers for Disease Prevention and Control say Indiana is among 23 states reporting regional influenza outbreaks, the Evansville Courier & Press reported.

Doctors have seen a big increase in patients with flulike symptoms at St. Mary’s Convenient Care in Evansville, where physician John Honningford said there’s been “a marked increase” in flu cases during the past two weeks. He estimated that there have been between 30 and 40 diagnosed cases of flu at the clinic within the past month.

Flu numbers are also rising in Fort Wayne, though hospitals here say there has not been a large increase in reports, certainly no more than expected.

Lutheran Hospital had eight confirmed influenza cases through Dec. 21, spokeswoman Lizette Downey said. There were 19 cases last week and 16 so far this week.

“We’ve seen it hit in the last 10 days,” Downey said. “But I don’t think it’s an astonishing number.”

Parkview Hospital has seen so few cases that officials didn’t have numbers to report.

“We’ve had minimal influenza so far,” Parkview spokesman Eric Clabaugh said.

January and February typically are the peak flu months in the U.S., and there’s still time to get vaccinated, said Dr. Fred Wallisch, medical director at Deaconess Clinic in Evansville.

“Most of the people coming in with it have not been vaccinated,” he said. “It’s not 100 percent (effective), but it is beneficial.”

At Reid Hospital in Richmond, Dr. Thomas Huth said the hospital has seen about 50 flu cases during the past week alone.

“It’s definitely flu season in our area,” he said.

The average age of Reid Hospital’s flu patients so far is 23; the youngest was a 1-month-old, and the oldest was 78.

Flu symptoms often appear quickly and include a fever, cough and/or sore throat, runny nose and headaches or body aches.

Unlike a stomach virus, the flu virus typically does not cause symptoms such as diarrhea and vomiting.

The best time to treat flu symptoms is within 72 hours after the symptoms begin, according to Randi Whitesel, registered nurse and unit manager for Reid Hospital’s occupational medicine department.

“If you feel uncommonly ill with flulike symptoms and are experiencing shortness of breath or a high fever, it’s time to see your primary care doctor,” she said.

“An urgent care center is the next-best option, and then the emergency department.”

Dan Stockman of The Journal Gazette contributed to this story.