State and local health officials are urging Hoosiers to take steps to protect themselves and loved ones from influenza in light of a flu season that appears to be particularly severe so far. Eighty-five deaths associated with the flu have now been reported in the state with six deaths reported within Kosciusko County. That’s higher than the total deaths in each of the previous 10 years—and flu season is only halfway through.
“This has been a very active flu season,” explained Joy Lohsee, KCH marketing and public relations director. “Like other hospitals in the region, we are experiencing an increase in emergency room visits and hospitalizations among people with flu-like symptoms. For some patients, the flu has been severe. Six patients have died in our county, some of whom received treatment at our hospital. All were at an increased risk of experiencing complications from influenza.
Influenza or the “flu” is a viral infection of the respiratory tract. Influenza is spread by respiratory droplets from close contact with infected persons or contact with contaminated surfaces or objects. Infection can occur when influenza viruses contact the eyes, mouth or nose, and possibly through inhaling droplets from a sneeze or cough. Sometimes people may become infected by touching surfaces or objects contaminated with influenza viruses and then touching their eyes, mouth or nose.
Symptoms of the flu include a fever of 100 degrees Fahrenheit or greater; headache; fatigue; a cough; muscle aches; and a sore throat.
Although anyone can get the flu, some people are at higher risk of complications related to the flu, sometimes leading to hospitalization and even death. High risk individuals include pregnant women, young children (especially those younger than two years), people older than 65, and people with chronic illnesses and/or compromised immune systems.
“Adults are contagious one day before getting symptoms and up to five days after getting sick,” stated Lohsee. “If you think you have the flu, please seek care early. Visit your doctor or an urgent care as soon as possible. They may be able to prescribe antiviral drugs to treat flu illness and prevent serious flu complications. High-risk individuals with the flu are particularly in need of prompt treatment.”
Every year, multiple strains of influenza circulate during flu season. Health officials stress that the current vaccine available is still the best defense against flu this season, even though it is not perfectly matched to all of the flu strains going around. In any case, the flu vaccine may reduce the severity and length of illness for those who do get the flu. Everyone over 6 months of age can get the flu vaccine.
“Flu season is expected to continue for several more weeks. Influenza can be severe and annual vaccination is the best tool for flu prevention. It is not too late for flu vaccinations. Anyone who has not yet been vaccinated this season should get an influenza vaccine now,” noted Lohsee.
Lohsee noted Kosciusko Community Hospital has placed visitor restrictions in an effort to protect patients, visitors and staff. Anyone seeking treatment who has cold or flu-like symptoms (such as fever, cough or muscles aches) must wear a mask while in public areas of the facility, including waiting rooms. In addition, no visitors under the age of 18 and no visitors of any age with flu-like symptoms will be allowed to visit patients. Visitors are limited to immediate family only.