Just because the flu season hit early this year doesn’t mean Hoosiers are out of the woods when it comes to the virus, experts say. While flu activity is on the downward trend, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, its prevalence in Indiana remains widespread.
Flu season typically runs through May, said Shawn Richards, a respiratory epidemiologist at the Indiana State Department of Health.
“The recommendation from CDC is, as long as influenza is circulating, you should be vaccinated,” he said. “The influenza virus can circulate at any time of the year, and you would get some benefit from being vaccinated if you haven’t done so already.”
Influenza cases hit a peak in January, and 45 influenza-associated deaths have been reported in the state. Overall, Richards said, it’s been a moderate season for flu activity.
Typically, the flu hits children and the elderly hardest, but Richards said young and middle-aged adults were affected the most this year.
“Typically, this age group does not get vaccinated very well for influenza,” he said, “and they go to work sick and spread it to other persons who aren’t vaccinated.”
According to the CDC, people from ages 18 to 64 represented 61 percent of all influenza-related hospitalizations, compared with 35 percent the year before.
Richards said simple steps can help to keep people from getting sick.
“The best ways that people can protect themselves,” he said, “is to be vaccinated, stay home when they’re sick, to wash their hands and cover your coughs and sneezes, and try to avoid being around people that are sick.”
It’s important to note that some parents choose not to vaccinate their children for religious or moral beliefs, and others hold off until it can be determined whether a child is at risk for adverse reactions.
Updated information on flu activity in Indiana is online at in.gov.