Health officials urge vaccines amid increase in flu deaths

Last Updated on March 4, 2016 by cassnetwork

INDIANAPOLIS—State health officials are urging Hoosiers to get vaccinated against influenza amid an increase in the number of flu-related deaths in Indiana. Since October, 19 Indiana residents have died of influenza-associated illnesses, including two children.

Many of Indiana’s influenza-associated deaths this season have occurred among unvaccinated individuals, especially people who are at high risk of flu-related complications due to age or underlying medical conditions. The Indiana State Department of Health (ISDH) has also seen an increase in flu activity, including severe illnesses, in schools, long-term care facilities and correctional facilities in recent weeks.

“As we see every year, the flu can have serious consequences, and we urge Hoosiers to do everything they can to protect themselves,” said State Health Commissioner Jerome Adams, M.D., M.P.H. “People should not get a false sense of security just because this year’s season has been milder so far. The flu will be around for several more months, and people who haven’t received a flu vaccine should get one to ensure they’re protected.”

Health officials recommend that everyone age 6 months and older get an annual flu vaccine. 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.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that this year’s seasonal influenza vaccine is about 59 percent effective, which is among the highest rates documented by studies of the vaccine’s effectiveness. Flu season typically continues until May, and healthcare providers are encouraged to continue offering the vaccine to unvaccinated patients throughout the remainder of the season.

Influenza is a viral infection of the respiratory tract. It is spread by respiratory droplets released when infected people cough or sneeze nearby or when people touch surfaces or objects contaminated with those infectious respiratory droplets. People can also become infected by touching surfaces or objects contaminated with influenza viruses and then touching their eyes, mouth or nose.

Flu symptoms include:

  • fever of 100 degrees Fahrenheit or greater
  • headache
  • fatigue
  • cough
  • muscle aches
  • sore throat

Although anyone can get the flu, some people are at higher risk of flu-related complications, such as pneumonia, hospitalization and death. High-risk individuals include pregnant women, young children (especially those too young to get vaccinated), people with chronic illnesses, people who are immune-compromised and the elderly.

Healthcare workers also are urged to get a flu vaccine to reduce their risk of transmitting illness to their patients.

Health 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.

For more information about influenza, visit the ISDH’s flu webpage at

Visit the Indiana State Department of Health at for important health and safety information, or follow us on Twitter at @StateHealthIN and on Facebook at

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