Indiana health officials are urging Hoosiers to get immunized against influenza after confirming the first flu-related death of the 2021-22 flu season. No additional information about the patient will be released due to privacy laws.
Each year, hundreds of Hoosiers become sick from influenza, and some cases prove fatal. In the 2020-21 flu season, seven Hoosiers died after contracting influenza. In 2019-20, 137 Hoosiers lost their lives to the disease.
“Although influenza deaths last year were some of the lowest we have seen, that is largely due to the COVID-19 mitigation measures most Hoosiers were following, such as staying home and wearing masks,” said State Health Commissioner Kris Box, M.D., FACOG. “The flu remains a very real threat to Hoosiers, and we encourage everyone who is eligible to get a flu shot to help protect themselves and our hospital systems, which are still strained by the weight of the COVID-19 pandemic.”
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that everyone age 6 months and older get a flu vaccine each year. Because infants younger than 6 months can’t be vaccinated, it’s important that anyone in a household where a young baby lives or visits get a flu shot to protect the child. Healthcare workers also are urged to get a flu vaccine to reduce their risk of transmitting illness to their patients.
It takes about two weeks after vaccination for antibodies that protect against flu to develop in the body, so the CDC recommends early vaccination. However, the flu vaccine can be administered at any time during the season, which typically runs from October through May.
Influenza is a viral infection of the respiratory tract. It is spread by respiratory droplets released when infected people cough or sneeze nearby or when people touch surfaces or objects contaminated with those infectious respiratory droplets. People can also become infected by touching surfaces or objects contaminated with influenza viruses and then touching their eyes, mouth or nose.
Although anyone can get the flu, some people are at higher risk of flu-related complications, such as pneumonia, hospitalization and death. Those most at risk include pregnant women, young children (especially those too young to get vaccinated), people with chronic illnesses, people who are immunocompromised and the elderly. It is especially important for these individuals to be vaccinated each year.
Common signs and symptoms of the flu include:
- fever of 100° Fahrenheit or greater
- muscle aches
- sore throat
- runny or stuffy nose
People can help prevent the spread of flu by washing their hands frequently and thoroughly, avoiding touching their eyes, nose and mouth with their hands and staying home when sick. Hoosiers should practice the “Three Cs” to help prevent the spread of flu and other infectious diseases:
- Clean: Properly wash your hands frequently with warm, soapy water.
- Cover: Cover your cough and sneeze into your arm or a disposable tissue.
- Contain: Stay home from school or work when you are sick to keep your germs from spreading.
Influenza vaccines are available Tuesday-Saturday at the COVID-19 vaccination clinic held across from Gate 2 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway through Oct. 30. To find additional locations by ZIP code, visit www.vaccine.gov.
To learn more about influenza or to view the IDOH weekly flu report, which is updated here each Friday.