Winter is here and so is the flu season, and state health officials report while Indiana is having normal flu activity, an increase in flu cases is expected as the season continues. According to week 50 data, as of December 19th, Indiana has one reported influenza death for the 2012/2013 season. The latest percentage of patients at sentinel provider clinics with symptoms relating to influenza-like illness was three-point-four-four percent, up from two-point-four-two the previous week. In week 50 there were 77 positive Influenza A/H3 seasonal virus specimans, the largest number of any Influenza viruses circulating, bringing the 2013 Influenza A/H3 seasonal virus total to 119. Sentinel reported influenza-like illness by age category in week 50 showed those 5 to 24 years old with the highest number of cases at 63-percent, with those 65 and older registering the lowest number of cases, at one-percent. State Health Commissioner Gregory Larkin, M-D, says Hoosiers can still get a flu vaccine during the winter months.
Symptoms of the flu include:
- fever 100 degrees Fahrenheit, or greater
- muscle aches
- sore throat
Although anyone can get the flu, some people are at higher risk of developing complications related to the flu, including hospitalization and death. High risk individuals include pregnant women, young children (especially those too young to get vaccinated), people with chronic illnesses and/or compromised immune systems and the elderly.
The Indiana State Department of Health suggests following the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommendation that everyone over the age of six months get the vaccine this year--not just those who are at the highest risk.
To help stop the spread of the flu and other respiratory diseases like pertussis (whooping cough), state health officials encourage using the three “C’s:”
- Clean – Wash your hands frequently with warm, soapy water;
- Cover – Cover your cough or sneeze with your arm or a disposable tissue;
- Contain – Stay home from school/work when you are sick to keep your germs from spreading.
Additionally, another ailment often associated with the flu, “stomach flu” or viral gastroenteritis, is not actually flu at all. It is a viral infection of the intestinal tract. It is spread through eating or drinking contaminated food or drink or by close contact with an infected person. Unfortunately, flu shots won’t prevent viral gastroenteritis, but prevention does include frequent hand washing, disinfecting contaminated surfaces and prompt washing of soiled clothing. Also, avoid preparing food if ill with gastrointestinal symptoms such as diarrhea or vomiting.
For more information on influenza and the seasonal flu vaccine, visit http://www.in.gov/isdh/25462.htm.
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