Kevin L. Green
Reports of influenza-like illness are on the rise, according to the most recent weekly flu report from the Indiana State Department of Health.
Indiana, along with many other states, is experiencing a high level of influenza-like activity early this season, with seven deaths being reported since November. By comparison, no influenza-related deaths had been reported at this time last year.
“We are now well into what appears to be a somewhat severe flu season,” said State Health Commissioner Gregory Larkin, M.D. “However, it is absolutely not too late to become vaccinated. If you have not been vaccinated this year, I encourage you to get vaccinated now to protect you and your family.”
Specific numbers for Rush County weren’t available as of Wednesday afternoon, but Dixie Meyer, RN with the Rush County Health Department, said, “I don’t have exact numbers for Rush County, but I’m sure there’s been an increase [in the number of people with the flu or flu-like symptoms].”
Meyer also suggested folks wash their hands frequently, cover their mouth when sneezing or coughing and stay home if they’re sick.
The Decatur County Health Department also reports there has been an increase in the number of people in the area with influenza-like illnesses and that inquiries regarding the flu vaccine have been on the increase of late, but also did not have specific numbers.
The 2012-2013 vaccine protects against the three most common strains of influenza: H3N2, H1N1, and Influenza B. Health officials say that although cases of H1N1 and Influenza B have been reported, the H3N2 strain appears to be predominant. The 2012-2013 vaccine appears to be a good match for circulating flu strains.
“Typically, H3N2 seasons tend to be more severe, with a higher number of hospitalizations and deaths,” said Dr. Larkin. “Anyone experiencing flu-like symptoms should contact their health care provider, even if they have been vaccinated.”
Symptoms of the flu include: Fever of 100 degrees Fahrenheit or greater, headache, fatigue, cough, muscle aches and a sore throat.
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 become vaccinated. High risk individuals include pregnant women, young children, people with chronic illnesses and/or compromised immune systems and the elderly.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention also recommends that all health care workers become vaccinated each year to protect themselves and their patients.
Some other tips to help protect against the spread of influenza include:
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.
Even though the flu season took off earlier than expected, it is not too late to get vaccinated against the influenza virus, according to an expert at the Influenza Research Center at Baylor College of Medicine.
Dr. Pedro Piedra, professor of molecular virology and microbiology and pediatrics at BCM, said that every year can be a bad influenza year for children, who are more likely to get sick from the virus than any other group in the community. School-aged children are also likely to spread the virus to their classmates and to their family at home.
Influenza can be prevented, and the best way to do so is annual vaccination against the virus. Everyone six months of age and older are recommended to get the vaccine, which helps provide direct benefit to the vaccinated person as well as indirect benefit to the community by reducing the spread of the virus.
There are two types of vaccines for the virus: the live attenuated vaccine, which is administered by spray into the nose, and the inactivated vaccine, which is administered by injection into the muscle of the arm or thigh. The nasal spray is approved for individuals two to 49 years old and the injection is approved for all individuals six months and older.
“Children should never receive aspirin when they have respiratory infections like a cold, influenza-like illness, influenza infection or during the first two weeks after vaccination with the live attenuated influenza vaccine,” said Piedra.
If someone is experiencing flu-like symptoms, they should consult with their physician to get the appropriate medications to treat the infection.
“These anti-influenza drugs have to be started early in the illness for best benefit,” said Piedra.
For more information about Indiana’s 2012-2013 influenza season, visit the Indiana State Department of Health at www.StateHealth.in.gov.
Contact: Kevin Green @ 765.932.2222 x108
Myth: Influenza infection is just a nuisance.
Fact: On average, five to 20 percent of the individuals living in the United States are infected each year with influenza, causing millions of medical visits, over 200,000 hospitalizations and approximately 40,000 deaths.
Myth: Influenza vaccines do not work.
Fact: Influenza vaccines prevent influenza infection. Like all vaccines, they do not prevent all the infections.
Myth: Influenza vaccines cause the flu and make me sick.
Fact: The live attenuated influenza vaccine can cause mild respiratory infection in a small number of persons, generally with the first vaccine dose. The inactivated influenza vaccine can cause mild soreness at the injection site shortly after receiving the vaccine. These are expected reactions and they are mild in most individuals when they do occur.
Myth: I do not need the influenza vaccine because I am healthy.
Fact: Influenza vaccine is recommended for everyone six months of age and older, whether you are healthy or have a chronic medical condition.
Myth: I cannot receive the vaccine because I am pregnant.
Fact: The inactivated influenza vaccine is recommended for women during pregnancy, which means you can be vaccinated during the first, second or third trimester.
Myth: I have to see a doctor to receive the influenza vaccine.
Fact: Adults can generally receive the vaccine at neighborhood grocery and drug stores. For children, influenza vaccines are generally given at the doctor’s office and in some schools.