In Indiana, the absences at your child’s school will be monitored very closely Friday if you live in Marion County after the Health Department announced it is preparing to step in and close schools if too many students stay home sick with the flu.
Monitoring schools is just one of the ways the Health Department is trying to help protect Hoosiers from spreading the flu. On Thursday, the agency announced restrictions on patient visits at hospitals. Anyone with any symptoms of influenza-like illness will not be allowed in hospitals. Also restricted are visitors under the age of 18, as well as anyone who is not an immediate family member.
Health officials stress the best defense against the flu is to get a flu shot, which is around 60 percent effective – and will at least minimize symptoms even if do get the flu. Properly washing your hands frequently and avoiding contact between your hands and face are some common sense ways to further protect yourself from influenza-like illness.
If possible, it also helps to avoid tight, crowded places where flu germs can easily spread. Schools can be one of those places when a large number of students are together in a confined space like the classroom, which is the reason the health department will be monitoring IPS schools today in the event they need to act quickly to close any schools if necessary.
"We're sending the request to them to ask that we can get daily rates in regards to children being absent from school," said Dr. Virginia Cain of the Marion County Health Department. "And if we have a significant enough number of those children, then we consider it a possibility should that school be closed."
Meanwhile, the Marion County Health Department will hold a flu shot clinic today from 1 to 5 p.m. at the health department's training center at 4012 North Rural Street. You can also get free flu shots today at all of the Health Department's district offices.
Indiana has been hit hard be this season’s flu outbreak, which has resulted in 21 flu deaths in the state so far. Two of those deaths were people under the age of 18.
It's recommended that anyone six months of age or older get the shot, especially high risk individuals like the elderly, pregnant women, young children and those with compromised immune systems.
In the meantime, here are some tips to further help prevent spreading the flu:
- Clean. Wash your hands frequently with warm, soapy water.
- Cover. Cover your cough and sneeze into your arm or a tissue.
- Contain. Stay home from when you’re sick to prevent your germs from spreading.
Whether or not you’ve gotten a flu shot, health officials advise contacting your health care provider if you experience the following flu symptoms:
- Fever of 100 degrees Fahrenheit or greater
- Muscle aches
- Sore throat
The Visiting Nurse Service at St. Francis is also offering a flu shot clinic today from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m. at the Visiting Nurse Service at St. Francis Central Office, located at 4701 N. Keystone Avenue.
Vaccinations will be offered to children six months of age and older, and a limited supply of Thimerosal Free vaccine will also be available. No appointment or prescription is necessary for the clinics.
The cost for a full-dose flu shot is $35. A half-dose for children six to 35 months is $30, and the Thimerosal Free vaccine is $40. Pneumonia vaccinations will also be available for $70.