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Flu season in full swing


January 30, 2013
It's that time of year again. Runny noses, itchy, watery eyes, achy joints and lots of other unmentionable body functions have invaded households across Indiana, and health officials are urging people to get an influenza vaccination while they still can.

Kelly Sturgeon, the public health nurse at the Crawford County Health Department, said the office has distributed all of its doses of adult flu vaccine but there are still some doses of the children's vaccination available.

"I ordered 330 adult doses, and they are all gone as of last week," she said Thursday. "As far as the kids, we ordered between 150 to 200 doses, and we have around 25 doses left."

This year has proven to be one of the state's deadliest flu outbreaks in the last five. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which issues a weekly report on the status of the influenza virus in the United States, during week three of 2013, 44 percent of specimens tested positive for influenza — 27 specimens were positive for influenza A/H3, one was positive for Influenza A /H1N1pdm virus, one was positive for influenza B — bringing the percentage of positive tests down from the previous week of 58.2 percent.

There have been 40 deaths this year due to the influenza outbreak, and 21 of the individuals killed by the virus were from Indiana.

Last flu season, there were three flu-related deaths in Indiana.

Statewide the number of people infected reached its first peak of the season earlier than it has since 2009. Flu season typically runs from October to May.

The virus strains change every year and make it difficult for health professionals to predict the severity of each new strand as each season rolls around.

The highest number of flu cases are Influenza A (H3N2) and Influenza B, both of which are covered with this year's vaccination.

"Any people who have ongoing health problems or any immune system deficiency" should be tested, Sturgeon said. "It is now safe for all pregnant women to get the vaccine."

Vaccination is also recommended for the very young — the vaccine is safe for anyone 6 months or older — and the elderly due to the high risk nature of the virus and the often fragile immune systems of the two demographics.

The flu isn't the only nasty bug flying around and wreaking havoc this winter.

"We've seen a lot of stomach flu, and a lot of them are from the elementaries," Sturgeon said. "A lot of them have gotten sent home from that. And a lot of bronchitis."

A flu shot today doesn't guarantee that you're out of the woods tomorrow, and those who get the vaccination should remember that it can take up to two weeks for the flu shot to take effect.

Until then, flu.in.gov recommends everyone practice the three C's to stay germ free:

•Clean — Properly wash your hands frequently with warm, soapy water.

•Cover — Cover your coughs and sneezes.

•Contain — Contain your germs by staying at home when you are sick to keep your germs from spreading.

For a list of locations to receive a flu shot, visit flu.gov, the federal government website managed by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

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