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Young and middle-aged adults between the ages of 20 and 55, along with pregnant women, have been particularly affected.

Flu hits healthy adults hard this season

Statement as issued Thursday by Fort Wayne-area health officials and hospitals:

FORT WAYNE, Ind. (Jan. 23, 2014) –This year’s flu season seems to be most dangerous for pregnant women and otherwise healthy adults, a population not normally associated with adverse outcomes.

Public health officials are reporting widespread flu activity now, with most illnesses blamed on the H1N1 strain that was responsible for the 2009 pandemic. Like in 2009, it appears to be young and middle-aged adults between the ages of 20 and 55, along with pregnant women, who have been particularly affected. That’s in contrast to other flu seasons when senior citizens and children are generally the populations most at-risk for severe outcomes.

More than 60 percent of hospitalizations nationwide continue to occur in people between the ages of 18 and 64, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. There have been 19 flu-related deaths in Indiana this season, the majority of them in individuals between the ages of 25 to 64. While that is fewer deaths than last year at this time, it does appear to be hitting young people hard.

“The ones who are getting sick enough to be hospitalized are young and otherwise healthy adults,” says Dr. Scott Stienecker, medical director, infection prevention, Parkview Health. “We have patients in our ICU being treated for severe flu who have no other risk factors other than not having gotten a flu shot.”

The Fort Wayne-Allen County Department of Health, along with Parkview Health and Lutheran Health Network, are urging everyone over the age of 6 months to get vaccinated for flu. Flu activity will likely continue for several more weeks so it is not too late to protect yourself and your family. The vaccine is safe and the most effective means of preventing the flu. With more vaccine options than ever before and more places to get it, there’s really no reason not to get vaccinated.

Flu can be treated with antiviral medications if caught early. Even if you have been immunized, it is important to contact your health care provider if you experience any of the following symptoms: High fever of 100 degrees or greater, dry cough, fatigue or muscle aches.

At this time, no restrictions have been placed on visitors to area hospitals. But people should still take precautions.

“Although there are no restrictions on visiting our hospitals, we recommend staying home if you are experiencing any influenza-like illness," said Cheryl Rieves, RN, MS, chief nursing officer, St. Joseph Hospital. "Patients in need of care for all conditions are very susceptible to coming down with this nasty bug. It’s difficult to stay away when family and friends are hospitalized, but we all need to do what we can to prevent the spread of this communicable disease."

For more information on flu prevention, go to www.fighttheflu.org.

Flu Prevention

• Get an annual flu shot. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention now recommends that everyone over the age of six months get vaccinated for influenza each year.

• Wash your hands often with soap and warm water, especially after you cough or sneeze. Use alcohol-based sanitizer if soap and water is not available.

• Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze. Throw the tissue in the trash after you use it. Cough or sneeze into your sleeve, rather than your hands, if a tissue is not available.

• Stay home from work or school and limit contact with others if you are ill. Try to avoid other people who are sick.

• Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth. Germs spread that way.

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