News From Terre Haute, Indiana

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February 9, 2011

Flu outbreak widespread in Indiana

TERRE HAUTE — Grab the tissues and the hand sanitizer, and watch where you sneeze, please.

The seasonal flu has hit Vigo County, and the national Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says the flu in Indiana is now widespread.

The change in status from a regional outbreak to widespread for Indiana and 10 other states is based on CDC data for the number of influenza-like illnesses reported in state medical visits.

The Indiana State Department of Health figures show 79 percent of flulike illnesses were positive for influenza in the last week of January but no new strains were circulating across the state.

The state had two more flu-associated deaths that week and now has four overall this season.

Epidemiologist Shawn Richards says the state expects flu cases to multiply because of more flulike activity at universities. She says the best protection is to get vaccinated and to wash hands frequently.

Currently, a variety of influenza viruses are circulating, Richards said, but none is considered a new virus, such as last year’s H1N1, which is no longer considered a “novel” or new virus.

In Vigo County, health department administrator Joni Foulkes confirmed that more cases of influenza are being seen locally, and that is reflected by increased absenteeism at schools and workplaces.

“A lot of over-the-counter products are being sold for the flu at area pharmacies,” she said, “and you can still get a flu shot at many area pharmacies.”

Mid-February through mid-March is the main flu season, Foulkes noted, so the state is right on track statistically.

People should consider getting a flu shot if they haven’t received one yet, because the worst is yet to come.

When asked if the recent public isolation because of the winter ice storm could have an effect on the outbreak, Foulkes said that is a wait-and-see question. The reporting data runs about two weeks behind. But the last week of being cooped up at home because of the cancellation of school and the travel restrictions could have been beneficial in slowing down the spread of the flu.

Lisa Trigg can be reached at (812) 231-4254 or lisa.trigg@tribstar.com.

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