Not too late to get flu shot this season

The Daily Journal

Last year, the flu season reached its peak in mid-January, nearly a month ahead of the usual pattern. This year, we’re already experiencing a major upshot in flu cases.

The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that influenza was widespread in 36 states, including Indiana, as of the week ending Dec. 20, the most recent reporting period, and that about 7 percent of all nationwide deaths during that week were due to the flu or pneumonia.

Indiana already has seen the deaths of 31 people, mostly among the elderly, due to flu this winter season.

Locally, area hospitals all report an increase in the number of patients coming to the ER each day with fevers, chills, aches and other symptoms serious enough that they’re being admitted for fluids and medication. That number doesn’t include patients who have the flu but aren’t sick enough to need hospitalization.

The hospitals also are restricting visitors and asking that any adults with any flu symptoms or who don’t feel well not to visit patients.

The people who are the most susceptible to the flu are children, the elderly and anyone who already suffers from respiratory problems or a weakened immune system.

But the good news is simple precautions will improve your chances of escaping the flu this season.

It’s not too late to get vaccinated, and the vaccine remains 50 percent effective despite not targeting the strain that has become most dominant this season, state health authorities said.

The shot is still one of the best ways to defend against getting sick, Johnson County Health Department head nurse Lisa Brown said.

Indiana State Department of Health Chief Medical Officer Dr. Joan Duwve said it’s likely that people who get vaccinated every year will have some protection from the dominant strain this year.

Other precautions include regularly washing your hands with soap and water, using alcohol hand sanitizer when washing is not possible, and coughing and sneezing into the inside of your elbow.

These measures won’t guarantee you won’t get the flu this year, but they will almost certainly reduce your risk and potentially reduce the impact if you do catch it.

At issue

The flu season is peaking earlier than normal this season.

Our point

It’s not to late to take precautions against catching the flu.