News From Terre Haute, Indiana

January 8, 2013

Flu-like illness on the rise

The Tribune-Star

TERRE HAUTE — Influenza-like illness is 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 on 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 in a news release. It is not too late to become vaccinated, he said.

Terre Haute Regional Hospital’s emergency room is seeing an increase in influenza cases, said Cheryl McCarter, family nurse practitioner and director of occupational medicine and employee services. She did not have a specific number.

influenza cases at some of the businesses that she works with.

“The best defense is getting the flu shot,” McCarter said. Other important measures include washing hands and covering your mouth when you cough.

For those who develop flu symptoms, “If you can get to a health care provider within 48 hours of the onset of symptoms, there are treatment options available, and your physician can decide what they are,” McCarter said.

At Union Hospital’s emergency room, there have been more cases the first week of January than there were the first week of December, “but nothing significant” in terms of numbers, said Kim Perkins, director of public relations and marketing.

“It’s mostly nervous people, those who are having trouble getting into their primary care doctor, so they come to the hospital,” Perkins said.   

Flu shots are still available at the Vigo County Health Department Health Clinic for $20, cash only, said Sydney Elliott, health educator.

The Health Clinic is located at 696 South First St., across from Fairbanks Park. Call for an appointment at 812-462-3431.

According to the state Department of Health, 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,” Larkin stated. “Anyone experiencing flu-like symptoms should contact their health care provider, even if they have been vaccinated.”

Symptoms of the flu include a fever of 100 degrees Fahrenheit or greater; headache; fatigue; cough; muscle aches; 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:

•  Properly wash your hands frequently with warm, soapy water.

• Cover your cough and sneeze with your arm or a disposable tissue.

• Stay home from school/work when you are sick to keep your germs from spreading.

According to the CDC, this flu season is shaping up to be one of the more severe in recent years.

In the last week of December, flu was widespread in 41 states; flu-related child and infant deaths climbed to 18 and outpatient visits for flu symptoms had also increased, the Associated Press reported.

Experts say the vaccine is well-matched to this year’s flu strains, but isn’t 100 percent effective. It does reduce the severity of the illness for those who do get it.