Flu cases surge throughout county

In the past couple of weeks, the number of people going to a hospital or clinic with flu symptoms has at least doubled.

In about half the cases, the patient had received a flu shot, officials said.

At least one hospital stocked up on Tamiflu, the prescription medication that lessens flu symptoms and speeds up recovery, after learning this year’s vaccine didn’t protect against the most prevalent flu strain.

Hospitals here and in Indianapolis are restricting who can visit

patients, with the hope of

stopping the spread of the illness. And health officials hope the spread will be slowed when

students are out of school for the next two weeks.

Franciscan St. Francis Health is confirming 10 to 12 cases of the flu a day, compared with five or six less than two weeks ago, media relations director Joe Stuteville said.

The Family Physicians of Johnson County, which has two locations in the county, is diagnosing three to five cases per day, director of business development Bill Oakes said. Of those, about half are patients who got the flu shot this year, he said.

An additional five to eight people with flu symptoms per day walk into the Johnson Memorial Hospital emergency department to be tested, with another two to four people stopping at the immediate care center, Oakes said.

Schools are seeing an increase in sick students as well, sending home an average of about five students per day from Edinburgh schools. Two weeks ago, two students had the flu confirmed by a doctor, but now that number is up to eight, said Susan Lollar, the nurse for the district. She said other students were sent home with symptoms of a fever or

sore throat.

With classes ending today for most students, the hope is that influenza should be kept at bay since it won’t be spread inside the classroom, said Susan McRoberts, chief nursing officer at Franciscan St. Francis.

People will be doing last-minute shopping with crowds all over the county, and the most effective way to protect yourself is to wash your hands frequently, she said.

The federal Centers for

Disease Control and Prevention has officially declared that

central Indiana is experiencing

a flu outbreak.

All Marion County and Johnson County hospitals are restricting visitors. Any patient diagnosed with the flu can be visited by only immediately family members 18 and older, and any visitor with a cough or flu-like symptoms cannot visit.

Indiana University Health

also is seeing a spike in the

number of flu cases at their hospitals statewide.

“We saw over 450 positive flu cases from patients within our system in the first week of December, compared to 29 from three weeks earlier,” said Dr. Doug Webb, medical director of infection control at Indiana University Health.

Most people diagnosed with the flu are not hospitalized, McRoberts said.

Most people who come into the hospital with flu symptoms come through the emergency department and leave with a diagnosis. Unless you have a pre-existing condition, such as cancer or a respiratory issue, most flu patients are not kept in the hospital.

“When the patient can’t breathe, has terrible pain (or) has a very high fever, it’s usually time to seek help,” McRoberts said.

By the numbers

The number of patients diagnosed with the flu has risen over the past two weeks, with some hospitals doubling the number of confirmed cases:

Franciscan St. Francis Health: 10 to 12 confirmed patients  with influenza per day

Johnson Memorial Hospital emergency department: 5 to 8 patients with flu symptoms per day

Family Physicians of Johnson County: 3 to 5 confirmed patients per day total in two locations

Johnson Memorial Immediate Care: 2 to 4 confirmed patients per day

Indiana University Health: 450 positive cases statewide this week