Indiana, as well as many other states, has been experiencing a high level of influenza-like activity this season, which started earlier than usual. Seven deaths have been reported in Indiana alone since November, compared to no deaths reported in the state this time last year.
“We are now well into what appears to be a somewhat severe flu season,” said State Health Commissioner Gregory Larkin, M.D. “However, it is absolutely not too late to become vaccinated. If you have not been vaccinated this year, I encourage you to get vaccinated now to protect you and your family.”
The 2012-2013 vaccine protects against the three most common strains of influenza: H3N2, H1N1 and Influenza B. While cases of H1N1 and Influenza B have been reported, the H3N2 strain appears to be predominant this season, according to health officials who also say this particular strain tends to make people sicker than usual.
Meanwhile, the Department of Health is calling flu rates in Indiana "widespread-to-high." In addition to seven Hoosier deaths from the flu, the state has also seen a four percent jump in doctor visits for influenza-like illness. In emergency rooms and clinics in Indiana, the number of people treated for the flu jumped nearly 40 percent in one week – and, according to Dr. Michael McKenna, a local pediatrician, the flu season in Indiana will likely get worse next week since kids are back at school sharing germs this week.
"We have seen it earlier and stronger than in other states," McKenna said about this year's flu activity. "It is good parents are concerned for children and themselves. The biggest thing you can do for yourself or your children is get a flu shot. It is not too late. We give them until we run out," he said.
To make matters worse, you can pass the flu on to others before you even know you have it yourself. Most healthy adults may be able to infect others beginning one day before symptoms develop, and up to five to seven days after becoming sick.
Children may pass the virus on for longer than seven days because the flu lingers inside places like the classroom or daycare.
Other than getting a flu shot, the best way to prevent the flu is to wash your hands and wash them often. It also helps to avoid being inside a tight space with a lot of people who may potentially spread the virus to others, including surfaces within the crowded space.