01/24/13 Influenza continues to be a concern in Indiana, as state health officials are now reporting 40 deaths due to flu-related illness. Of the 40 deaths, 38 individuals had underlying medical conditions such as heart disease, diabetes, asthma and renal disease. A large majority of the deaths, 33, have occurred in individuals older than 65 years and two of the deaths occurred in individuals younger than 18 years.

State health officials encourage all Hoosiers to get vaccinated to help protect against the flu. A flu shot locator can be found on the Indiana State Department of Health website at www.StateHealth.in.gov or by visiting www.Flu.gov. The CDC has reported this season’s flu vaccine as being approximately 62 percent effective. Health officials stress that while the flu vaccine does not guarantee immunity, it is still the best protection from flu.

“While everyone should get their flu vaccine, individuals with underlying medical conditions are clearly at high risk this season and absolutely need to be vaccinated,” said State Health Commissioner William C. VanNess II, M.D. “Flu activity remains high and we simply don’t know if it has peaked yet. Continue to wash your hands often, cover your cough and stay home if you are sick.”

This season’s vaccine offers protection against the three most common strains of influenza: H3N2, H1N1 and Influenza B. The H3N2 strain appears to be predominant thus far in the 2012/13 flu season.

Flu vaccination is recommended for anyone six months of age or older. It is especially important for those at higher risk of complications related to the flu, to get vaccinated. High risk individuals include pregnant women, young children, people with chronic illnesses and/or compromised immune systems and the elderly.

Symptoms of influenza include: high fever, headache, fatigue, cough, muscle aches and sore throat. Health officials encourage anyone experiencing these symptoms to contact their health care provider.

Thorough and frequent hand washing, covering your cough with a tissue or your sleeve and staying home when you are sick can all help reduce the spread of the flu.