Indiana flu deaths tally rises by 29 cases in a week, to 79 for season

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — The flu is raging on in Indiana, with the number of flu deaths rising to 79, up from 50 a week earlier, state health officials said Friday.

The total of influenza-related deaths this season through Sunday increased to 50, with 25 added cases in the first week of January, according to a report from the state Department of Health.

The state report does not say where the victims died or give their specific ages, but Marion County health authorities said Thursday that they had recorded six deaths this season.

The state tally includes 58 people who were 65 or older. That number grew from 36 a week earlier.

Fourteen of this season’s deaths were people ages 50-64. The other deaths involved six people ages 25-49 and, the state’s first flu death of the season, a victim in the age 5-24 grouping.

Hospitals in Indianapolis and other parts of central Indiana have implemented restrictions on visitors since the start of the year due to the spread of the flu virus.

The state recorded 103 flu deaths in the 2016-2017 season, which ended in May.

Nationally, more than 40,000 people died each week in the last three weeks of December, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows on its website. The last two weekly reports from the CDC show flu widespread over the entire continental United States, which is unusual.

“This is a season that has a lot more steam than we thought,” said Dr. Dan Jernigan of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

One measure of the season is how many doctor or hospital visits are because of a high fever, cough and other flu symptoms. Thirty-two states reported high patient traffic last week, up from 26 the previous week. Overall, it was the busiest week for flu symptoms in nine years.

“One reason that it is effecting more people is that more people are getting out, more people are being active, but people aren’t necessarily protecting themselves as much as they should; therefore, they’re not being protective of others also,” IU Health Primary Care Doctor Arnold Henry said earlier this week.

“It’s important to go to primary care office or even urgent care facility over the emergency department if you do suspect you have the flu. The reason for that in emergency medicine there is a lot of overcrowding,” Henry said.

According to Dr. Virginia Caine, director of the Marion County Public Health Department, anyone is at risk; healthy and sick. She offered these tips to avoid the flu:

  • Prevent the spread of germs. Washing hands frequently and coughing in your sleeve are examples.
  • Take antiviral medications. If your doctor approves, medications like Tamiflu can shorten the duration of your illness.
  • Get a flu vaccine. There is still plenty of time. Flu season doesn’t end until March, and sometimes as late as May. The health department has a list of locations to get flu shots.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.