Statement as issued Friday by state health officials:
INDIANAPOLIS – The number of influenza-related deaths in Indiana this season has now reached 11. St. Joseph County has been hit particularly hard, experiencing six deaths. No other Indiana county has reported more than one death.
Health officials do not report counties with less than five deaths to respect the privacy of the victims and their families. In a change from last year’s flu season, health officials say that all but one of the deaths occurred in individuals between the ages of 25 to 64.
“Hoosiers cannot become complacent when it comes to the flu,” said State Health Commissioner William VanNess, M.D. “I strongly recommend all Hoosiers get vaccinated if you haven’t done so yet. Flu is very unpredictable.”
There are two vaccine combinations available for the 2013/14 flu season. The trivalent vaccine offers protection against the three most common strains of influenza: H3N2, H1N1, and one type of Influenza B. A new quadrivalent vaccine was released this year and includes a second Influenza B strain. The H1N1 strain appears to be predominant thus far in the 2013/14 flu season. Flu vaccine can typically be found at local health departments, pharmacies and with health care providers. A flu vaccine locator tool can be found on the Indiana State Department of Health’s website at www.StateHealth.in.gov.
Flu vaccination is recommended for anyone 6 months of age or older. It is especially important for those at higher risk of complications related to the flu to get vaccinated. High risk individuals include pregnant women, young children, people with chronic illnesses and/or compromised immune systems and the elderly.
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.
"Although not typically considered to be a high risk group, young and middle-aged adults have been hit fairly hard this flu season,” said Dr. VanNess. "Flu season can last until April, so I want to stress that it isn’t too late to get vaccinated."
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
• Muscle aches
• Sore throat
For more information about Indiana’s 2013-2014 influenza season, visit the Indiana State Department of Health at www.StateHealth.in.gov. Follow the Indiana State Department of Health on Twitter at @StateHealthIN and on Facebook at www.facebook.com/isdh1 for important health updates.